Shifting European consumption towards a largely plant-based diet as recommended by the EAT-Lancet commission could benefit the agriculture sector overall in the EU27.

However, countries, including Ireland, that are specialists in animal agriculture would lose out.

This is according to a recent study by German academics that was published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics.

The research indicates that while agriculture generally could benefit from a dietary shift, countries and regions that are highly specialised in animal farming are likely to lose income, at least in the short term.

Conversely, regions with a higher share of vegetable and fruit production would see income gains.


The study, which claims to be the first to analyse the implications of dietary shift on agricultural markets and farm incomes, modeled a 10% and 30% achievement of the Lancet recommendations by 2030 and extrapolated that out to 2050.

It also looked at a long-term scenario in which full shift in line with the EAT- lancet recommendations occurs by 2050.

The economic modeling analysed the consequences for agricultural production, prices and incomes for the EU27.

The study focused on non-CO2 emissions and does not consider the carbon emissions or removals from the land-use, land-use change and forestry sector.


The study found that in line with dietary changes, production and prices of animal-based products decrease, while production and prices of fruits and vegetables increase sharply.

However, trade is forecast to support production, as exports of meat and dairy to non-EU countries grows. Imports of fruit and vegetables into the EU is also projected to increase.

Countries that are highly specialised in animal livestock farming, such as Germany, Ireland and Denmark, are likely to lose income.

In contrast, countries with a higher share of production of vegetable and fruit can expect income gains according to this study.

Dietary changes are projected to reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions

Dietary changes are projected to reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with previous studies. However, the main reduction in GHG emissions occurs mostly in non-EU regions where the production of animal products decreases.

The study analysed the farm impacts in Germany as a country case study, in which livestock farming is the dominant production system and production cannot be significantly adjusted in the short term.

The results project that dairy farms on average would lose one-third of their income, while farms with a high proportion of vegetables could gain more than 30% in income.

The researchers conclude that the EAT-Lancet diet is associated with better outcomes in terms of emissions, health and agricultural incomes generally.

Shifting diets to include significantly more plant-based foods is proposed as a key measure in addressing climate change.

Policy options to drive this change, such as taxes and subsidies, have been discussed and analysed, but are yet to materialise. However, it is likely that some countries at least will move in this direction.

So far, the debate has centred on policies to motivate the dietary shift, yet production impacts and policy needs have been wholly neglected.

Significantly more research is required to understand the farm-level impact, particularly as this research only focused on a dietary shift in the EU27 and not more broadly.

Similar moves in higher-income regions globally would presumably result in deeper income losses for the livestock sector.

Farmers should be aware of the growing focus and momentum on dietary shift globally, but particularly in Europe. Better public data on consumption and changing diets is required.

Agricultural stakeholders should be alert to the pace of this change and seek to influence the public policy response to support farm incomes and livelihoods.