In the public debate about climatic and environmental issues, animal-sourced food is a frequent topic. But what do we really know about the total consequences of producing meat and milk in Norway? Which effect has the utilizing of domestic resources for livestock production for environmental, economic and social sustainability? Is livestock a natural part of the resource cycle in Norway and is livestock a part of the low-emission society we are aiming for within 2050?
In the project LIVESTOCK, we document these questions through holistic life cycle analysis of the domestic livestock production. This means that we are counting for the whole system from the soil to the product, not only the emissions from single animals or a single farm. We also include the three pillars for sustainability; environment, economy and social concerns. We are especially concerned with addressing how the utilization of domestic, natural resources affects the sustainability of a livestock production system. More specifically, we are concerned about novel, innovative feed resources like yeast produced from Norwegian spruce. To contribute to future, rational decisions about livestock production, it is important to document such effects. Then, we will be able to assess if it, in total, is more sustainable to utilize domestic resources like the yeast as a protein source in the feed, in preference to for instance imported soy. If we can produce food which is rich in high-quality protein by utilizing surplus domestic resources, we can ensure both self-sufficiency and food security in addition to the sustainability of domestic livestock production.
The project started in April but was fully manned first from 1st of October. LIVESTOCK has an interdisciplinary research group that has frequent meetings. So far, the goal and scope of the life cycle assessment models have been decided. In addition, methods, available data and working plans have been discussed thoroughly. Currently, we are working with the baseline models for the production of cattle (ruminants) and pigs (monogastrics). These baseline models are assumed to be representative of the different main, domestic production systems within beef/milk and pork production, such that we can document the sustainability in these current systems. To have reliable baseline models, we need to utilize the information available in multiple databases and sources. At the same time, we are working on specifying the value chains giving the foundation for the economic analysis, and a sub-model for the yeast production developed in Foods of Norway. The project leader has presented LIVESTOCK at the conference EAAP 2019 in Ghent in August and at LandTek in Oslo in October.
Later in the project, we will, through the life cycle models we are developing at present, explore different scenarios for future livestock production. In Norway, we have a large number of natural resources in the woods, outfields, along the coast, freshwater and renewable energy, but we have limited possibilities for growing human-edible crops. Therefore, ruminants can play an important role in our resource cycle. If the future human diets will mostly consist of plant-sourced food in preference of animal-sourced food, there will be some consequences for e.g. self-sufficiency, need for imported food, and management of domestic, natural resources. Through these scenarios with different strategies, we will look at the consequences for sustainability towards the low-emission society in 2050.