Decoupling Livestock from Land Use through Industrial Feed Production Pathways

Ilje Pikaar, Silvio Matassa, Benjamin L. Bodirsky*, Isabelle Weindl, Florian Humpenöder, Korneel Rabaey, Nico Boon, Michele Bruschi, Zhiguo Yuan, Hannah van Zanten, Mario Herrero, Willy Verstraete, Alexander Popp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


One of the main challenges for the 21st century is to balance the increasing demand for high-quality proteins while mitigating environmental impacts. In particular, cropland-based production of protein-rich animal feed for livestock rearing results in large-scale agricultural land-expansion, nitrogen pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Here we propose and analyze the long-term potential of alternative animal feed supply routes based on industrial production of microbial proteins (MP). Our analysis reveals that by 2050, MP can replace, depending on socio-economic development and MP production pathways, between 10-19% of conventional crop-based animal feed protein demand. As a result, global cropland area, global nitrogen losses from croplands and agricultural greenhouse gas emissions can be decreased by 6% (0-13%), 8% (-3-8%), and 7% (-6-9%), respectively. Interestingly, the technology to industrially produce MP at competitive costs is directly accessible for implementation and has the potential to cause a major structural change in the agro-food system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7351-7359
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2018

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Decoupling Livestock from Land Use through Industrial Feed Production Pathways'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Projects

    Cite this

    Pikaar, I., Matassa, S., Bodirsky, B. L., Weindl, I., Humpenöder, F., Rabaey, K., Boon, N., Bruschi, M., Yuan, Z., van Zanten, H., Herrero, M., Verstraete, W., & Popp, A. (2018). Decoupling Livestock from Land Use through Industrial Feed Production Pathways. Environmental Science and Technology, 52(13), 7351-7359.