Low Carbon Food

Decarbonization Avenue : Low Carbon Food

The food value chain is one of the largest sectoral contributors to global greenhouse emissions.

All food items carry a carbon footprint. For some foodstuffs like meat and dairy that directly depend on livestock, the carbon footprint is very high, mainly owing to significant methane emissions upstream of the value chain. Total global emissions from livestock are about 7.2 billion tons CO2 equivalent, a good percentage of these being grown for food. The world consumes about 1.5 billion pigs, 570 million sheep, 475 million goats, 320 million cattle, and about 160 million tons of seafood every year.

Solutions to find emissions reduction strategies, or alternatives/substitutes to foods with high carbon footprint will have a significant impact on global decarbonization.

For the 2020-2030 period, innovations with impact can be expected in the domains of cultured meat, plant-based meat, plant-based pet nutrition, plant-based dairy & eggs.

Decarbonization potential

While it is early days yet for reliable estimates, claims from the industry suggest that cell-based meat could cut down CO2 emissions from the meat value chain by over 80%. While methane emissions from livestock have hogged the limelight in the context of emissions from the food sector, the decarbonization for low carbon food should go far beyond meat.

The world produces about 1.5 trillion eggs a year (about 85 million tons), which alone would be responsible for about 150 million tons of CO2 a year (at about 1.6 Kg CO2/Kg of eggs). Fishing (industrial and small scale) emits about 200 million tons of CO2 every year.

Decarbonization is possible for each of the above.

Moving to vegetarian food, rice cultivation alone emits over 1.4 billion tons of CO2 per annum, a good portion of this owing to the large amounts of water use and enhanced use of fertilizers. In a business as usual scenario, emissions from rice cultivation could be about 2 billion tons per annum. A McKinsey analysis of GHG abatement showed that it is possible to abate close to 50% of CO2 emissions from rice by 2050 using mainly three approaches - rice paddy water management, adoption of dry direct seeding and improving fertilization practices.

Industries impacted

  • Agriculture & farming
  • Food & beverages
  • Life sciences
  • Logistics
  • Packaging & plastics
  • Waste management

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Themes & Topics

  • Plant based meat

    • Beans based meat substitutes

    • Peas & nuts meat substitutes

    • Fruit-based meat substitutes

    • Mushrooms, cabbages & lentils based meat substitutes

    • Mycoprotein based meat substitutes

    • Single cell protein based meat substitutes

  • Plant based eggs

  • Plant based dairy

  • Cellular meat alternatives

  • :Imperfect foods"

  • Organic foods






  • Low carbon fishing

  • Reducing cultivation carbon footprint of:

    • Cereals

    • Vegetables & fruits

    • Nuts & spices

    • Coffee & tea

    • Sugar

    • Vegetable oils

    • Dairy products

    • Conventional meat

    • Conventional poultry

    • Conventional pork

  • Low carbon food processing

  • Technologies & processes





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