Milk, Chicken Also Responsible For Greenhouse Gas Emissions
May 14, 2012

Milk, Chicken Also Responsible For Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While there's an old axiom that tells people not to cry over spilled milk, researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe there may actually be a good reason to shed a few tears over wasted dairy products.

In a Sunday press release, the Scotland-based university reports that there are 360,000 metric tons of milk wasted each year in the UK, which leads to greenhouse gas emissions equal to 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide -- creating a carbon footprint roughly equal to that as 20,000 automobiles annually, they added.

Researchers also say that cutting the amount of chicken consumed in the UK and other developing countries in half could cut greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road.

The researchers report that if "average chicken consumption in developed countries fell from the current level of 26kg each per year to the Japanese average of about 12kg each by 2020, global emissions from poultry would fall below current levels, despite increased output from the developing world" noting that such a move would cut projected global production of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide by nearly one-fifth.

The study, which was led by Dr. David Reay of the University of Edinburgh's School of Geosciences, suggests that consumers could help combat climate change and limit greenhouse gas emissions but cutting back on the amount of food that purchase, use, and dispose of. They also recommend that the food industry should find more efficient ways to use fertilizer, thus cutting back on their emissions.

"Demand for food, particularly meat, is expected to increase over the next few decades as the world's population continues to grow and emerging countries consume more," the university said. "Agriculture is the biggest source of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that is emitted by soil and fertilizers. Producing meat produces more emissions than growing crops, as large amounts of cereals are grown to feed livestock."

The findings are a result of a study examining greenhouse gas emissions from both worldwide agricultural production and food consumption. The University of Aberdeen and other partners in both Europe and the United States contributed to the study, the results of which have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.