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Food and climate

Just eat pork crackling - it’s beneficial for the climate

An excessive proportion of our meat is being incinerated instead of being eaten. For example, only a quarter of the cow ends up as meat on our plates. Recent research shows that opening our gastronomic horizons has major benefits for the climate - and not least by eating more brawn and pork crackling at Christmas time.

By Birgitte Dalgaard, , 12/20/2019

We need to combine meat-free days with days on which the pot simmers with liver or heart. We are in fact very bad at utilising the meat derived from animals, and new research affirms that this is harmful to the climate.

Only something like a quarter of the cow ends up as meat on our plates, while a major part is incinerated. But greenhouse gas emissions from the entire supply chain would fall by 14 per cent if we ate just 50 per cent of the offal that we throw away.

According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock production accounts for 14.5 per cent of overall greenhouse gas emissions globally.

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“Pork crackling is a good example of food type, which utilises a part of the pig that would otherwise be discarded, namely the skin. Pork crackling may not be the healthiest of foods, but it contains a lot of nutrients and proteins and it is efficient utilisation of the animal,” points out Professor Gang Liu from SDU Life Cycle Engineering.

Less waste of food

Gang Liu has studied Germany’s production of meat from cows, pigs and chicken in a major EU project.

Germany is the largest meat producer in the EU, and researchers have studied how the share of meat production in global warming can be reduced. Among other things, it can be reduced by changes in diet, elimination of food waste and more effective animal husbandry.

“In climate terms, the best impact is achieved by not eating meat – especially beef. But it is unrealistic for us to stop eating meat. On the other hand, we can ensure a major benefit for the environment by reducing waste of food in households and commerce while, at the same time, ensuring better utilisation of by-products from meat,” points out Gang Liu.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) does not expect that we stop eating meat either. The worlds meat production is estimated to double by 2050 according to projections made by FAO.

From nose to tail wave

In England, “nose to tail eating” has started to spread in recognised restaurants. The Nose2Tail restaurant in the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen has also established a sustainability principle based on utilising the meat of the animal from nose to tail.

“Chicken feet are a delicacy in China and cost more per kilo than chicken breast. It is normal to cook these on a barbecue when preparing offal. This is a matter of food culture and traditions. I believe that there would be a big market if, for example, Danish Crown rode on the “nose to tail” wave and developed new products,” says Gang Liu and points out that the Danes may not be quite as frightened as the Germans are to eat offal.

Dishes with offal

“I believe that I’ve seen fresh liver and heart in Bilka. This is not so common in other European countries. But we are also experiencing a shift in food traditions in Denmark, where a lot of people are not eating liver. It would be desirable for dishes with offal or other parts of the animal to become fashionable again,” says Gang Liu.

The research is supported by the EU Horizon 2020 Programme, REFRESH.

Meet the researcher

Gang Liu is Professor WSR at the SDU Life Cycle Engineering and describes himself as an enthusiastic industrial ecologist. The idea behind industrial ecology is that waste and recyclable material are used for new production in controlled networks that in principle leave a harmless ecological footprint.


Editing was completed: 20.12.2019