As populations rise and global tastes shift towards meat-heavy western diets, increasing agricultural yields will not meet projected food demands – making it necessary to bring more land into cultivation, researchers said.
This will come at a high price, warned the authors, as the deforestation will increase carbon emissions as well as biodiversity loss and increased livestock production will raise methane levels.
“It is imperative to find ways to achieve global food security without expanding crop or pastureland,” said lead researcher Bojana Bajzelj from the University of Cambridge in Britain.
“As we eat more meat, more arable cultivation is turned over to producing feedstock for animals that provide meat for humans,” Bajzelj explained.
“Agricultural practices are not necessarily at fault here – but our choice of food is,” Bajzelj averred.
The team analysed evidence such as land use and land suitability to create a robust model that compares different scenarios for 2050, including scenarios based on maintaining current trends.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change.