Today a major focus of international public discourse on the sustainability of protein is on re-balancing western diets in favor of more plant-based protein sources . This is one approach that can have an impact, but not the only pathway to a more sustainable food system. We cannot neglect the opportunity to improve the sustainability of meat production and consumption practices throughout the industry (FAO) .
Our initiative acknowledges that meat, as a high-quality protein source, is an integral part of many cultures and food systems. Based on its amino acid profile, animal protein can provide a complete protein with a high biological value. One billion people living in poverty, mostly pastoralists in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, depend on livestock for food and livelihoods. Globally, livestock provides 25% of protein intake and 15% of dietary energy.
On the other hand, the environmental sustainability impacts of consuming animal proteins range from greenhouse gas emissions and the excretion of nitrogen and phosphorus, to land-use change. There is also a now a better understanding of the physical and mental needs of farm animals- adding to the list of responsibilities within this value chain.
We believe that meat proteins can remain a component of balanced diets as long as we ensure that we produce – and populations consume – meat responsibly.
The purpose of this initiative is to accelerate a shift, to allow for responsibly sourced meat to become more accessible globally so that when meat is consumed, it is as part of a sustainable and just food system. Due to the size and footprint of the global meat sector, even small changes have the potential for considerable aggregate positive impact.
Research presented in WBCSD’s recent report “ Protein Pathways- Accelerating sustainable transformation through business innovation” provides an indication of the carbon impact of pork in comparison to alternative sources of protein. At around 30 kg CO 2e per 100g of protein, pork is significantly more impactful than legumes and plant-based protein, but with a much lower impact compared to beef production (at 50 kg CO 2e per 100g). Whilst this is only one element of impact (and it is crucial to take a holistic approach), more consideration should be given as to the role that pork may play in a future sustainable food system. This could include the potential displacement of more carbon-intensive foods, and the role of pigs as a natural “up-cycler” of bi-product and co-product materials; whilst at the same time recognizing and minimizing the significant environmental impact of pork through changes in how pigs are raised and fed.