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Evaluating sustainable dietary transitions in Brazil

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

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Dr Rafael De Oliveira Silva , Prof D Moran No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project addresses key issues raised at the recent BBSRC Cross-Institute Workshop: The future role of livestock in food production.

International projections indicate a significant increase in demand for agricultural products and, consequently, for potential land conversion. At the same time, recent reports (1) highlight the need to reduce global meat consumption to achieve greenhouse gas (GHGs) mitigation targets. Beef and soybeans are significant drivers of emissions from land use change (LUC) in Brazil. This is partially explained by demand; the Brazilian average diet is highly meat-dependent and around 80% of the 9.5 M tonnes of beef produced per year is for domestic consumption. On the supply side, livestock systems and their land-use patterns are changing. Production was traditionally based on extensive pastures displacing natural vegetation. However, since around 2006 productivity has been increasing through forms of sustainable intensification (SI) practices that have led to lower emissions (2).

There is a large literature addressing the role of livestock in land use change, but the potential impact of dietary transitions is relatively underexplored. This multidisciplinary project will develop bio economic modelling linked to regional input-output tables (3). The combined model will integrate optimal dietary composition with LUC, emissions, farm incomes, employment and regional tax revenues.

The project will compare baseline diets and their economic, environmental and social impacts of less meat-heavy diets. Dietary variables will include energy (kcal), macro (carbs, protein, fat) and micro nutrients requirements (e.g., bioavailable protein and Iron, B12, fatty acids).

Methods will focus on developing a general equilibrium model building on an existing optimization model-EAGGLE (2) that has been used to explore SI and GHGs of livestock systems in Brazil. It will use bio economic data offered by EMBRAPA, INPE and TNC Brazil.  

Funding Notes

3.5 year PhD

This opportunity is open to UK and international students and provides funding to cover stipend, tuition fees and consumable/travel costs. Applications including a statement of interest and full CV with names and addresses (including email addresses) of two academic referees, should be emailed to [Email Address Removed].

When applying for the studentship please state clearly the project title/s and the supervisor/s in your covering letter.

Other projects available:
We would encourage applicants to list up to three projects of interest (ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice) from those listed with a closing date of 10th January 2021 at


1. W. Willett et al., Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet. 393, 447–492 (2019).
2. R. de Oliveira Silva et al., Increasing beef production could lower greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil if decoupled from deforestation. Nat. Clim. Chang. 6, 3–8 (2016).
3. G. Q. Chen, Z. M. Chen, Greenhouse gas emissions and natural resources use by the world economy: Ecological input-output modeling. Ecol. Modell. 222, 2362–2376 (2011).
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