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Factory Farm Emissions and Food Waste Could Be Ruinous to Climate-Saving Efforts

Plus, restaurants might not recover until 2025, and more news to start your day

Agricultural Silos - Building Exterior, Storage and drying of grains, wheat, corn, soy, sunflower against the blue sky with rice fields. Shutterstock
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

A new study says food production is responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas production

Depending on how the election goes, the U.S. is either out of or will quickly be rejoining the Paris Agreement, the United Nations’ effort to combat climate change. But according to a new study in Science, emissions from farming and food production could put the goals of the agreement out of reach, even if all other sources of greenhouse gases were halted. The food system alone “would probably warm above the 1.5°C target sometime between 2051 and 2063.”

The study accounted for presumed changes in efficiency to equipment, but also for potential changes in global diet. “Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems have increased due to a combination of dietary changes — more food in general, with a larger proportion of food coming from animal source foods — population size, and how food is produced,” says researcher Michael Clark. Food waste is also a huge issue. According to the study, halving food waste would drastically change projected emissions.

Luckily, there is hope. “We have to do a little bit of everything,” including boosting crop yields to curb deforestation, and reducing food waste, according to Clark. But diets in wealthy countries like the U.S., U.K., Australia, Brazil, and most of Europe need to change. Clark says, “These countries are primarily those that are middle or high income where dietary intake and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs is on average well above [health] recommendations.” Which is difficult when fast food is often cheaper and more readily available than fresh produce. If we need to change the global diet, we’re going to need policies and governments that actually make it accessible and affordable.

And in other news...

  • While independent restaurants around the world struggle in the pandemic, fast food chains are overall doing really well, and will probably make more gains. [WSJ]
  • The Washington supreme court ruled that farmworkers are entitled to overtime pay, after two former milkers sued the state, saying the Washington constitution enshrined overtime for hazardous work. [Capital Press]
  • The restaurant industry might not recover from the pandemic until 2023, and even then, those succeeding will mostly be fast food and limited-service restaurants. Full-service restaurants might not be back to normal until 2025. [RB]
  • Due to spikes in COVID-19 cases, Paris bans takeout, delivery, and alcohol sales at night. [Fox Business]
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers treated local election workers to a dinner of “chicken, rigatoni, veggies, rolls, pies and more.” [CNN]
  • Trader Joe’s reports 1,250 employees contracted COVID-19 over an eight month period. [NBC4]
  • Relax with this look at how corkscrews have evolved over the past 300 years. [Fast Company]
  • This layered ‘2020 Scent’ candle has one layer that smells like banana bread. [NYPost]
  • Please honor Philadelphia’s contributions to the election properly:

All AM Intel Coverage [E]