The study by David Bryngelsson from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden examined various future scenarios to determine how the climate would be impacted if humans were to change their diet.

"Cattle ranching is already responsible for 15 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that humans cause," observed Bryngelsson, who recently presented his doctoral thesis on land use, food related greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change.

He noted that increased consumption of beef runs counter to the goal of limiting the temperature increase to two degrees Celsius.There might be ethical objections to the current chicken industry, but Bryngelsson believes that climate gains will prevail even with more animal-friendly production methods.

Technical improvements in the production chain can to a certain extent also reduce the food industry's climate impact, but cattle are still the biggest problem, he noted.

"Since around 70 per cent of all agricultural land is currently used to raise cattle, converting to a more energy-efficient diet of poultry would free up land for cultivation of for example bioenergy," Bryngelsson explained.

"You could say that chicken is like an electrical car -- it is a better alternative, yet still very similar to what we are accustomed to," he said.

The difference between chicken and beef as regards area requirements and greenhouse gas emissions is so great that there is no doubt that the chicken leaves a smaller carbon footprint regardless of production method, the study noted.


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