“Less but better meat” – what does that mean?

Meat consumption in the Western world has to decrease and meat production practices have to improve. Eating “less but better meat” is a strategy put forward by a number of institutions and organizations as a strategy for increasing the sustainability of diets in high-income settings. But how much is “less” and what is “better”?

In a newly published comment in the Nature Food journal, Elin Röös together with researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC) call for greater clarity on these concepts as misuse could steer in an suboptimal direction.

The estimation of “less meat” could be guided by positive and negative health effect of eating meat as well as the amounts of different meats that could fit within climate boundaries or be produced from biomass not suited for human consumption. A first analysis shows that “less meat” would mean a reduction in meat consumption by at least 50% in the Western world regardless of perspective.

As for “better meat” a wide range of issues need to be considered (see figure below). A focus on just one or a few of these can lead to very varying conclusions of what constitutes better meat and risks overlooking important trade-offs. The authors conclude: “Scientific characterization of ‘less but better’ is crucial for enabling more informed discussionon value-laden decisions and to build consensus on the meaning of the concept, especially as it gains traction with civil society organizations and policy makers.

The study:

Sahlin, K.R., Röös, E., Gordon, L. 2020. ‘Less but better’ meat is a sustainability message in need of clarity. Nature Food 1, 520–522 (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s43016-020-00140-5

Research in this area continues in a project called “Less but better meat” – a joint project between SLU and the SRC.

Nu är WWFs vegoguide ute!

Världsnaturfondern (WWF) Sverige har nu kompletterat sin Fiskguide och Köttguide med Vegoguiden – en guide för att hjälpa konsumenter välja mer hållbart även bland vegoprodukterna. Gruppens Hanna Potter Karlsson och Elin Röös har varit med och tagit fram bakgrundsdata och diskuterat metodutvecklingen med WWF.

De flesta vegetabilier får grönt ljus inklusive grova grönsaker och baljväxter såsom ätror och , rotfrukter och potatis. Se upp dock med nötter, avokado och kokos!

Är det möjligt att förutsäga hur många elever som ska äta lunch?

Det uppskattas av livsmedelsverket att ungefär hälften av alla luncher som serveras i Sverige görs inom ramen för offentliga måltider. Skolan utgör en stor andel av dessa luncher, vilket kommer sig av en lagstiftad rättighet som möjliggör för elever att kostnadsfritt få ett mål mat varje skoldag.

Foto: Härnösand kommun

I och med att det är en rättighet att få lunch är det en utmaning för köken att försöka balansera hur mycket som ska lagas, då inte alla elever (av olika anledningar) dyker upp och överskottet kastas. I artikeln “Potential for using guest attendance forecasting in Swedish public catering to reduce overcatering” undersöktes det vilken potential olika slags metoder för att göra prognos över närvaro kan hjälpa köken i att bättre planera tillgång och efterfrågan och på så sätt indirekt minska matsvinnet. Nästa steg är att testa prognosverktygen i samband med olika matsvinnsmätningar för att se om prognoserna ger önskad effekt.

The article has been published open access in the journal Sustainable Production and Consumption.
Malefors, C.; Strid, I.; Hansson, P-A; Eriksson, M. Potential for using guest attendance forecasting in Swedish public catering to reduce overcatering. Sustainable Production and Consumption https://doi.org/10.1016/j.spc.2020.08.008

Links between Food Waste and Resilience

We explored the links between food waste and food system resilience in a recently published paper in Ecosystem Services Journal.

Much food is wasted because the actors in supply chains seek to improve their own resilience – so they overplant, over-order or overbuy food. This leads to “unnecessary” emissions & resource use, undermining the long-term resilience of the system as a whole.

But many synergistic actions are possible that both reduce waste and improve resilience. The more resilient actors are, the less they need to over-buy and over-produce.

In the paper we created a ‘system map’ and a long-list of food waste reduction interventions. We then assessed each intervention on it positive or negative effects on different aspects of resilience, such as redundancy, flexibility and connectivity.

Through this process we identified synergistic interventions, notably improved storage, improved food preparation to increase shelf-life, increased use of long-life products, equal sharing of risk along the supply chain and improved connectivity and gave policy recommendations on how to promote to improve both short and long-term food-system resilience through reduced food waste.

The paper is thus a combination of academic research at SLU and experiences of myself and colleagues working on food waste as practitioners at WRAP.

The article has been published open access in Ecosystem Services:
Bajželj, B., Quested, T.E., Röös, E., Swannell, R.P.J., 2020. The Role of Reducing Food Waste for Resilient Food Systems. Ecosyst. Serv. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2020.101140

Ny kortkurs om matens klimatpåverkan från Uppsala kommun

Lär med om matens klimatpåverkan i kortkurs från Uppsala kommun och med medverkande forskare Elin Röös.

https://uppsala-matklimat.se

Uppsala kommun har utvecklat en ny webbkurs om hur man kan göra mer klimartsmarta val vid planering och lagning av mat. Forskare Elin Röös som tillhör Food Systems gruppen deltar i kursen och berättar hur klimatpåverkan från matproduktion uppstår. Kursen syftar till att ge deltagarna ökad kunskap om hur maten vi äter påverkar klimatet, men också att ge konkreta verktyg att använda sig av både i arbetslivet och i privatlivet. Kursen ägs av Uppsala kommun och medfinansieras av statliga Klimatklivet. Kursen ingår i projektet Klimatprofilering av restauranger. Projektet syftar dels till att minska utsläpp av växthusgaser från mat som serveras på restauranger i Uppsala, men också till att göra gäster, personal och privatpersoner mer medvetna om matens klimatpåverkan.

Kursen är nominerad till det prestigefyllda Publishingpriset i kategorin Utbildnings-/Instruktionssajter.

Överskottsmat – till vilken nytta?

Att ta hand om överskottsmat från butiker och livsmedelsindustrin och donera överskottet till behövande är inte något nytt fenomen globalt, men att göra detta för att minska matsvinnet är tämligen nytt. Som ett resultat av detta så har det på senare tid kommit en rad aktörer som på olika sätt försöker hitta vägar för att ta hand om överskottsmaten till olika kundgrupper via olika distributionssätt. Frågan som kan ställas är vilken nytta som den levererade överskottsmaten ger och för vem? I den nya artikeln “Sustainability Assessment of Food Redistribution Initiatives in Sweden” undersöker vi en rad olika distributionssätt för överskottsmat och vilka sociala, miljömässiga och ekonomiska nyttor dessa skapar. Resultaten visar att använda sig av matkassar till socialt utsatta grupper genererar den största vinsten i termer av att minimera växthusgasutsläpp. Att använda sig av överskottsmat för att producera nya produkter visade sig skapa högst social nytta då det undersökta konceptet skapade flest arbetstillfällen (arbetade timmar per kg distribuerad mat). Problemet som samtliga iniativ har är att få ekonomin att gå ihop, då endast två av de undersökta fallen gick med vinst och inte var direkt beroende av extern finansiering.

Photograph by UNT

Food banks that redistribute surplus food from retailers and the food industry to people in need are not a new concept globally, but their connection to food waste prevention is new. As a result, new types of food redistribution units are emerging and diversifying to find new target groups and distribution methods. The aim of a new study “Sustainability Assessment of Food Redistribution Initiatives in Sweden” was to identify and study surplus food redistribution units in Sweden, and then to assess the impact on several sustainability indicators for selected redistribution units, in order to increase knowledge on the types of values these redistribution concepts generate. The methods used for analyzing the scenarios were Environmental Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Costing and Social Life Cycle Assessment. The results showed that providing food bags to socially exposed people generated the largest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per kg of redistributed food. Reprocessing surplus food to a high-quality end-product was attributed to a high social value, due to job creation effects in the high number of working hours required per kg of redistributed food. With regard to economic impacts, all but two scenarios studied had monthly financial losses and therefore needed other sources of financial support.

The article has been published open access in MDPI resources:
Bergström, P.; Malefors, C.; Strid, I.; Hanssen, O.J.; Eriksson, M. Sustainability Assessment of Food Redistribution Initiatives in Sweden. Resources 2020, 9, 27. doi.org/10.3390/resources9030027

Reflective crops contribute to climate change mitigation

Albedo change can make an important contribution to the climate impact of cropping systems. Albedo is the share of solar radiation reflected back from the ground. It ranges between 5 and 30% for bare and vegetated agricultural land, and can reach up to 90% due to snow cover. The more reflective a surface, the higher its albedo and the greater the potential for radiative cooling and eventually temperature change.

Photograph by Sergio Lorenc

Albedo has increased globally due to agricultural expansion, converting forests to more reflective grass- and croplands. However, deforestation is associated with losses of crucial ecosystem functions including carbon storage and local surface cooling by evapotranspiration. Managing agricultural land to achieve higher reflectivity has the potential to mitigate local heat waves and global warming. Strategies to increase the albedo of croplands include selection of reflective species or varieties, introduction of cover crops, intercropping, residue retention, and delayed or no ploughing.

In a recently published article, we studied how cultivating abandoned land with short-rotation willow affects albedo and evaluated its potential as a climate change mitigation measure. We found that albedo increased from 16.5 to 21.5% on average when fallow land was cultivated with willow, based on three years of field-measured data. These data were subsequently combined with a time-dependent life cycle assessment (LCA) model of bioenergy produced from willow. Here, we included emissions from the production of inputs, field operations, soil, transport and energy conversion.

Simulating processes and emission along the life cycle and impacts on climate over time allowed us to compare the effect of albedo change (cooling) to that of greenhouse gas emissions (warming) and carbon sequestration in biomass and soil (cooling). In sum, the bioenergy system had a net cooling effect because albedo change and carbon sequestration outweighed emissions from the supply chain and soil. Our results over time showcase the different nature of albedo and long-lived greenhouse gases as climate forcers. Albedo change needs to be sustained for years in order to offset the temperature response to a one-off greenhouse gas emission.

The article has been published open access in GCB Bioenergy:
Sieber, P., Ericsson, N., Hammar, T., & Hansson, P.-A. Including albedo in time-dependent LCA of bioenergy. GCB Bioenergy, n/a(n/a). doi:10.1111/gcbb.12682

100 000 ton per year instead of 30 000 – updated data about food waste from Swedish retail stores

The elefant in the room in this new report http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/8800/978-91-620-8857-6/, was the new data on retail waste – 100000 tons instead of 30000 tons -, which now is based on figures reported directly by the retail chains via the voluntary agreement instead of statistics based on a few stores combined with the number of employees. Expressen, a Swedish tabloid newpaper, made an interview with me and choosed to put focus on how the stores try to hide the food waste data, by not including rejected fruit and vegetables and returned unsold bread and dairy products. From my perspective, this actual behaviour is true, but the incentive is probably not to hide data from the public, but to shuffle the waste to other actors for economical reasons. I also think the newpaper “scope” about this could have been that the Swedish environmental protection agency previously used a method that only catched a third of the actual waste, besides that the now published “actual” waste does not include everything arising at retail level. /Ingrid Strid, food waste researcher at SLU

https://www.expressen.se/nyheter/klimat/sa-doljs-matsvinnet-genom-livsmedelsjattarnas-kryphal/

Oranges in nets are often wasted when one fruit gets bad.

New Food waste course

If you are interested in food waste-related issues, there is an opportunity to learn more this autumn in the new course “Food waste – current situation and future opportunities.” held at SLU in Uppsala. The course starts in August and will revolve around topics covered in the new Routledge Handbook of Food waste that will also act as the course literature. Study visits and project work are also an integral part of the course to disseminate where waste occurs and what strategies need to be in place to tackle this present issue both now and tomorrow. 

The environmental impacts from Swedish food consumption exceed the planetary boundaries for the food system

In a new study by researchers from the Food System Group together with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the environmental impacts of the Swedish diet were benchmarked relative to global environmental boundaries suggested by the EAT-Lancet Commission. To identify local environmental concerns not captured by the global boundaries, relationships between the global EAT-Lancet variables and the national Swedish Environmental Objectives were analysed and additional indicators for missing aspects were identified.

The results showed that the environmental impacts caused by the average Swedish diet exceeded the global boundaries for greenhouse gas emissions, cropland use and application of nutrients by two- to more than four-fold when the boundaries were scaled to per capita level. With regard to biodiversity, the impacts caused by the Swedish diet transgressed the boundary by six-fold. For freshwater use, the diet performed well within the boundary.

Comparison of global and local indicators revealed that the EAT-Lancet variables covered many aspects included in the SEOs, but that these global indicators are not always of sufficiently fine resolution to capture local aspects of environmental sustainability, such as eutrophication impacts. To consider aspects and impact categories included in the SEO but not currently covered by the EAT-Lancet variables, such as chemical pollution and acidification, additional indicators and boundaries are needed. This requires better inventory data on e.g., pesticide use and improved traceability for imported foods.