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85% of the UK’s total land footprint from food production* is associated with meat and dairy

85% of the UK’s total land footprint from food production* is associated with meat and dairy production but only 48% of its total protein and 32% of the UK’s total calorie consumption derive from livestock products. It's not just grassland either - a staggering 55% of the UK's cropland is used to grow animal feed.

Extrapolating from Harwatt and Hayek's study to look at what would happen if we reduced UK meat/dairy production by 50%, I calculated that:

  • If 50% of all current UK pastureland is reforested (~42,000 km2), this would result in an estimated 54 Mt CO2 annual average carbon sequestration by 2032. In the longer term by 2050, this would result in carbon sequestration of 3,236 million tonnes CO2, equal to offsetting 4 ½ years of current UK CO2 emissions. In practice, this would be restricted by how fast government could roll out tree planting. This is in addition to direct emissions savings - the Committee on Climate Change have previously estimated that halving the UK cattle and lamb sectors would reduce our agricultural emissions by 37%.

  • Converting 50% of the cropland currently used to grow animal feed in the UK would free up ~15,950 km2 of cropland to massively scale up the UK’s pulse, fruit and vegetable production – more than enough to make up for the loss of calories and protein lost through reduced meat production, and to convert cropland to more agro-ecological and organic practices which require more land. That's in addition to the emissions saved by halving pork and poultry production, which cause most demand for feed.

National Food Strategy diagram:

Source for 85% stat:

Harwatt and Hayek report:

*i.e. agricultural land producing food in the UK + land use overseas for food imported for consumption in UK

Original Source: Martin Bowman


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