Sustainable Labels and The Environmental Footprint of Food

December 2021

This overview of the environmental climate cost of food concludes that current upcoming solutions have the potential to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture by 60%, without a change in consumption. Challenging the perception that abandondment of animal foods is the only way for a sustainable food industry, regenerative farming of livestock is emerging as a key pillar of the food industry's carbon reduction plans, which depend on the restoration of farm land, where food security is most needed

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Key Findings

Agriculture has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by more than 60% without changes to dietary choices, factoring in population growth

Assuming elimination of 99% of methane emissions from cows, goats and sheep, a 48% reduction in methane reduction from rice cultivation and 55% reduction in emissions from fertiliser production and elimination of net deforestation, 61% of agriculture GHG emissions would be cut. The strengthening of agricultural practices around the world will provide additional food for a growing population with no additional land, and may even restore carbon stocks in depleted soils.

Direct benefits to farmers will be enough for some change, but not all

Reducing methanogenesis in cows increases growth rates. Similarly, the revolutionary alternate drying and wetting of rice fields increases yields while reducing methane emissions. Farmers have direct incentives to adopt both quickly.

Labels certifying usage of the most environmentally efficient technologies necessary to provide additional motives

Beyond changes to agricultural practices in rice cultivation and cattle rearing which offer direct benefits to farmers in terms of production efficiency, more expensive climate friendly fertiliser, biogas-powered tractors and investment in renewable energy for food processing will need to be offset by higher food prices, which highlights the need for communication to consumers.

Regenerative agriculture is the new organic

Organic was long seen as the holy grail of sustainable farming, but with the emergence of climate as the key focus, regenerative agriculture has emerged as an alternative. This includes a focus on sequestering carbon by restoring depleted farmland and by minimising soil disturbance. Regenerative agriculture aims to increase biodiversity and sequester carbon in soil, while achieving high yields.


Key findings

The Environmental Footprint of Food

Non-CO 2 greenhouse gases dominate agriculture’s climate impact
Agricultural land use has stopped increasing, yields are growing

Mitigation Strategies

Feeding macroalgea to cows may eliminate methane emissions
Revolutionary rice cultivation strategy to limit rice methane emissions
Carbon-neutral nitrogen fertiliser production
Fertiliser oxidation in agricultural fields contributes to climate change
Lithuanian AUGA launches first long-range biogas powered tractor
Food security, farming and climate action in tension
Agricultural climate action opportunities without consumption change

Environmentally Friendly Ethical Labelling

Europe leads use of environmentally friendly claims globally
Organic faces competition as leading environmental sustainability label
Western Europe: Advertising regulators are strict on net-zero claims
Third parties offers climate certification beyond net-zero claims
Carbon neutral/carbon reduced eggs early step in net-zero supply chain

Food Industry Aims to Reach Carbon Neutrality

Carbon net zero plans from the world’s three largest food companies
Regenerative agriculture a preferred method for carbon sequestration


Impactful technologies in need of implementation
The future role of ethical labels in the green food production transition


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