Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods

Xiaoming Xu, Prateek Sharma, Shijie Shu, Tzu-Shun Lin, Philippe Ciais, Francesco N. Tubiello, Pete Smith, Nelson Campbell, Atul K. Jain* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

278 Citations (Scopus)
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The food sector related to agriculture and land use is a major nexus of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Previous studies estimated regional and global emissions, or provided spatial details but for sub-sectors using different methodologies. This study takes the next step forward by providing spatially explicit production- and consumption-based GHG emissions worldwide from plant- and animal-based human food in circa 2010 with a model-data integration approach that ensures full consistency between sub-sectors. Global GHG emissions from the production of food is 17,150 ± 1,760 Tg CO2 eq/yr, to which the production of animal-based, including livestock feed, contributes 58%, the production of plant-based foods contributes 29%, and the remaining 13% of emissions are caused by other utilizations. Emissions from farmland management activities (38%) and land-use change (30%) are major contributors to total emissions. Rice (12%) and beef (27%) are the largest contributing plant- and animal-based commodities. South and Southeast Asia and South America are the largest emitting regions of
production-based emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724–732
Number of pages8
JournalNature Food
Early online date13 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

This research is partly supported by the US Department of Energy (number DE-SC0016323). The map figures in the main text and the Supplementary Information were created using Matplotlib Basemap Toolkit of Python.


  • Enviromental health
  • Scientific data


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