The global population is expected to rise to over 9 billion by 2050. Livestock produce such as meat, milk and eggs are an important component in global diets. However, they dominate agricultural land use, are a major source of greenhouse gases, and are associated with the highest rates of loss in the food system. Unfortunately, rates of meat and dairy consumption are expected to continue to increase as average incomes rise, with potentially damaging environmental and food security outcomes.
In two recently published RUGS project papers we investigated the influenced of consumer habits on the sustainability of the food system. Findings show that the losses from over-consumption of food are at least as substantial as the losses from food discarded by consumers. The combination of these and other losses mean that only 6% of agricultural biomass is consumed as food and almost 20 per cent of the food made available to consumers is lost through over-eating or waste. However, shifts in global dietary preferences and waste reduction could increase sustainability. For example, both reductions in over consumption and substituting traditional meat for other foods, e.g. insects, have the potential to improve food security in an environmentally sustainable manner.