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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Defining a land boundary for sustainable livestock consumption

Van Zanten, Hannah H. E.; Herrero, Mario; Van Hal, Ollie; Roos, Elin; Muller, Adrian; Garnett, Tara; Gerber, Pierre J.; Schader, Christian; De Boer, Imke J. M.


The need for more sustainable production and consumption of animal source food (ASF) is central to the achievement of the sustainable development goals: within this context, wise use of land is a core challenge and concern. A key question in feeding the future world is: how much ASF should we eat? We demonstrate that livestock raised under the circular economy concept could provide a significant, nonnegligible part (9-23g/per capita) of our daily protein needs (similar to 50-60g/per capita). This livestock then would not consume human-edible biomass, such as grains, but mainly convert leftovers from arable land and grass resources into valuable food, implying that production of livestock feed is largely decoupled from arable land. The availability of these biomass streams for livestock then determines the boundaries for livestock production and consumption. Under this concept, the competition for land for feed or food would be minimized and compared to no ASF, including some ASF in the human diet could free up about one quarter of global arable land. Our results also demonstrate that restricted growth in consumption of ASF in Africa and Asia would be feasible under these boundary conditions, while reductions in the rest of the world would be necessary to meet land use sustainability criteria. Managing this expansion and contraction of future consumption of ASF is essential for achieving sustainable nutrition security.


animal source food; greenhouse gas emissions; land boundary; land use; leftovers; livestock; recycling biomass; sustainable consumption; sustainable development goals

Published in

Global Change Biology
2018, volume: 24, number: 9, pages: 4185-4194
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Van Zanten, Hannah H. E.
Wageningen University and Research
Herrero, Mario
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Van Hal, Ollie
Wageningen University and Research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Energy and Technology
Muller, Adrian
Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
Garnett, Tara
University of Oxford
Gerber, Pierre J.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Schader, Christian
Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
De Boer, Imke J. M.
Wageningen University and Research

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger
SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

UKÄ Subject classification

Food Science
Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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