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Erasmus K.H.J. zu Ermgassen MRCVS

Erasmus K.H.J. zu Ermgassen, MRCVS

PhD Student

Room 3.01 David Attenborough Building
Office Phone: 01223 (7)65398


I qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Cambridge before beginning a BBSRC-funded MRes and PhD program in food security in October 2013. During my veterinary degree I spent one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked as a research assistant on the Conservation Evidence initiative (, collecting and summarising information on the efficacy of bird conservation interventions. I also completed undergraduate research projects at the Cornell Laboratory of Reproductive Biology and the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, where I worked on finch trichomonosis, an emerging infectious disease of European garden birds.

My PhD is supervised by Professor Andrew Balmford FRS.

Research Interests

I am interested in how we can reduce the environmental impact of agriculture - in particular, meeting the growing demand for meat and dairy products while minimising impacts on biodiversity and the environment. I have ongoing projects evaluating sustainable pathways for beef and soy production in Brazil, and pork production in the EU and China.

Livestock products provide one-third of all protein consumed by man, but have a substantial and increasing environmental impact. Livestock production occupies 30% of the planet’s land, produces 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and drives deforestation and biodiversity loss in the tropics, through the expansion of cropland and pasture for animal feed.

Areas of interest include the environmental impacts of alternative animal feed sources (e.g. food waste or insects), the environmental and economic trade-offs incurred in different meat and dairy production systems, and the efficacy of and potential for government- or market-led interventions, such as the Brazilian Cattle Agreement and Soy Moratorium, to reduce the impacts of agricultural production.

Key Publications

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. Alcântara, M.P., Balmford, A. Barioni, L, Beduschi Neto, F., Bettarello, M.M.F., Brito, G., Carrero, G.C., Florence, E.A.S., Garcia, E., Gonçalves, E.T., Luz, C.T., Mallmann, G.M., Strassburg, B.B.N., Valentim, J.F., Latawiec, A. Lessons from initiatives increasing cattle productivity in the Brazilian Amazon. (In review). Pre-print available at:

Koch, N.*, zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J.,*, Oliveira, F., Wehkamp, J., Schwerhoff, G. Agricultural Productivity and Forest Conservation: Evidence from the Brazilian Amazon. (In review). Pre-print available at:

Garnett, T., Godde, C, Muller, M, Röös, E, Smith, P. de Boer, I., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Gerber, P., Herrero, M., van Middelaar, C., Schader, C., Teillard, F., van Zanten, H. Grazed and confused? Report for the Food Climate Research Network, aimed at policy makers and the public to demystify the role of ruminants in greenhouse gas emissions and climate mitigation.

Salemdeeb, R., Vivanco, D.F., Al-Tabbaa, A, zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. (2017). A holistic approach to the environmental evaluation of food waste prevention. Waste Management 59, 442–450

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Balmford, A., & Salemdeeb, R. (2016). Reduce, relegalize, and recycle food waste. Science 352:1526 doi: 10.1126/science.aaf9630

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Durrant, C., John, S., Gardiner, R., Alrefaei, A.F., Cunningham, A.A., Lawson, B. (2016). Detection of the European epidemic strain of Trichomonas gallinae in finches, but not other non-columbiformes, in the absence of macroscopic disease. Parasitology 143(10):1294-300.

Salemdeeb, R.*, zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J.*, Kim, M.H., Balmford, A., Al-Tabbaa, A., (2016). Environmental and health impacts of using food waste as animal feed: a comparative analysis of food waste management options. Journal of Cleaner Production doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.05.049

Phalan, B., Green, R.E., Dicks, L.V., Dotta, G., Feniuk, C., Lamb, A., Strassburg, B.B.N., Williams, D.R., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Balmford, A., (2016). How can higher-yield farming help to spare nature? Science 351, 450–451. doi:10.1126/science.aad0055

Lamb, A., Green, R., Bateman, I., Broadmeadow, M., Bruce, T., Burney, J., Carey, P., Chadwick, D., Crane, E., Field, R., Goulding, K., Griffiths, H., Hastings, A., Kasoar, T., Kindred, D., Phalan, B., Pickett, J., Smith, P., Wall, E., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Balmford, A. (2016). The potential for land sparing to offset greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Nat. Clim. Change. doi:10.1038/nclimate2910

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Phalan, B., Green, R., & Balmford, A. (2016). Reducing the land use of EU pork production: where there's a swill, there's a way. Food Policy 58, 35–48. doi: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.11.001

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., D.R. Williams & Balmford, A. (2014) Livestock: tackle demand and yields. Nature 508:186–186.

Williams, D.R., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Dicks, L.V., Child, M.F., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J.  (2013) Bird Conservation - evidence for the effects of interventions. Pelagic Publishing.

*Joint first authorship