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Down to Earth

Agriculture: When farms turn into factories

It's time to end the myth once and for all. The farms in children's books are history. Today's agriculture is increasingly industrial and only those who adapt will survive. In this episode we investigate the environmental effects of "mega farms". Are these large-scale enterprises more polluting than the smaller variety? The answer is not as obvious as one might think.

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Reducing the farming footprint

Across the planet, livestock breeding is responsible for 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Research is underway to bring this down.

In Italy, a mineral buried in the hills of Tuscany has shown promising results. Chabazite is found in rock left over from volcanic eruptions. When added to animal feed, it can reduce ammonium in manure by up to 40 percent and slash atmospheric emissions by one fifth.

Another project funded by the European Union is looking at insects as a more sustainable source of protein for animal nutrition. Before being trialled in Europe, the programme needs to usher in a change in the law as well as overcoming consumer resistance to eating livestock fed on a bug-based diet.

Meat free, not taste free

One seemingly simple way to reduce the impact of farming is to eat less meat. The Belgian city of Ghent was the first in Europe to introduce a "veggie day", a day when people are encouraged to swap their steak for a stack of vegetables.

The idea has since been exported to ten other cities around the world as more people change the way they eat in the name of the environment and animal welfare. 

With the support of the European Union / Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development

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