What is the environmental impact of food consumed in Singapore? [Report]
Globally, the food we eat is responsible for almost a third of planet-warming greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that humans produce in a year. Red meat - in particular, beef - has the biggest carbon footprint per kilogram of protein. However, the environmental impact of our food is also affected by where our food comes from, and consumption trends locally.
For example, Singapore imports over 90% of the food consumed locally. The transportation of food by air significantly increases its environmental impact. However, most existing studies on the environmental impact of our food systems are either US or Europe-centric, and might not adequately take into account the environmental impact of the different growing, rearing, processing and logistics processes unique to countries which rely heavily on food imports. In addition, annual consumption of pork in Singapore is ten times that of beef. Hence, despite a lower GHG emission per kilogram of protein (as compared to beef), pork has a greater environmental impact in the Singapore context.
This study by A*STAR and Deloitte quantifies the global environmental impact of 13 key food items consumed in Singapore. It takes a life-cycle approach to quantify the GHG emissions, energy consumption and water consumption associated with a given food item from farm to import destination: production, processing and transportation within the countries of export and import (Singapore). The report also offers pathways which could meaningfully reduce the environmental impact of our food.
1. Consumption trends affect Singapore-level environmental impact of food
- Fibres and carbohydrates are the largest categories of food consumed in Singapore, making up two-thirds of food consumed by weight annually. Proteins account for the last one-third of food consumed, but account for more than two-thirds of GHG emissions.
- Pork accounts for ~30% of food GHG emissions even though it only makes up ~6% of total food consumed in Singapore.
2. Air transport, and energy sources used in production and processing have significant impact on GHG emissions
- Food items imported by air account for less than 5% of overall imports. However, they contribute to more than half of GHG emissions in the transportation stage.
- Cleaner sources of energy used in the production and processing stages help lower GHG emissions, to the point of offsetting the impact of sea transport of food from faraway countries.
3. There are several pathways that could meaningfully reduce the environmental impact of our food
- Sourcing from countries that use cleaner and renewable sources of electricity reduces GHG emissions at the food production and processing stages.
- Consuming locally produced food or food imported by land/sea reduces GHG emissions at the transportation stage.
- Over time, replacing 25% of protein consumed with alternative proteins could lower GHG emissions per capita from food consumption by 8%.