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Europe’s Meat Habit and the Global Food Crisis

European policymakers can fight both rising food costs and climate change by reducing incentives for industrial meat production. Even a 13% cut in the EU’s meat production would be enough to offset the loss of Ukrainian grain exports, reduce food insecurity in developing countries, and ease food price increases.

DENVER/BRUSSELS – European countries are experiencing their worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, owing to surging energy and food costs. COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and climate change have compounded the increase in commodity prices, leading to food shortages and rapidly rising food insecurity in the developing world. But there is good news: with a simple (but critical) change in food production, the European Union can ease food-price inflation and bolster global food supplies.

An analysis by consulting firm SYSTEMIQ shows that by cutting meat production by just 13% – the equivalent of European consumers going meat-free for one day a week – the EU could reallocate enough grain and land currently used to feed livestock to offset the 23 million tons of wheat Ukraine produced in 2020.

This should come as no surprise. After all, meat is a notoriously inefficient source of nutrition. For every 100 feed calories consumed by cattle, we produce just one beef calorie. As it stands, we are using vast amounts of land and fertilizers to grow food that only livestock can eat.

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