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Sustainable Food Systems in the 21st Century- Considering Natural Capital Embodied in Israeli Meat Consumption
Published: 31 October 2013 by MDPI in The 3rd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: The prevailing global livestock industry relies heavily on natural capital and is responsible for high emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). In recent years, nations have begun to take more of an active role in measuring their resource inputs and GHG outputs for various products. However, up until now, most nations have been recording data for production, focusing on processes within their boundaries. Some recent studies have suggested the need to also embrace a consumption approach. It follows that in a globalizing interconnected world, to be able to generate a sustainable food policy, a full systems approach should be embraced. The case of Israeli meat consumption is especially unique, as the country does not have the sufficient resources or climatic conditions needed to produce enough food to support its population. Therefore, Israel relies on imports to meet demand, displacing the environmental impact of the system to other countries. This research embraces a multi-regional consumption perspective, aiming to measure the carbon, land, and water footprints demanded by Israeli cattle and chicken meat consumption, following both domestic production and imports of inputs and products. Further, it discusses the current national policies relating to the meat system, and presents scenarios of how to increase efficiency while working within the limited biophysical capacity available. The results of this research show that the "virtual land" required for producing meat for consumption in Israel is equivalent to 70% of the geographical area of the country. Moreover, almost 80% of meat consumption is provided by locally produced chicken products but the ecological impact of this source is inconsequential compared to the beef supply chain; beef imports comprise only 13% of meat consumption in Israel but are responsible for 71% of the carbon footprint and 84% of the land footprint. The sources of Israel's meat supply are currently excluded from environmental impact assessments of Israeli processes. However, they constitute a measurable percent to the system's natural capital usage, so they must be included in a comprehensive assessment of Israel's consumption habits. Only then can policy be created for a sustainable food system, and inter-regional sustainability be achieved.
Keywords: Multi-regional consumption, natural capital accounting, meat system, Israel food security