Global food systems are no longer sustainable for health, the environment, animal biodiversity and wellbeing, culinary traditions, socioeconomics, or small farmers. The increasing massive consumption of animal foods has been identified as a major determinant of unsustainability. However, today, the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) is also questioned. The main objective of this review is therefore to check the validity of this new hypothesis. We first identified the main ingredients/additives present in UPFs and the agricultural practices involved in their provision to agro-industrials. Overall, UPF production is analysed regarding its impacts on the environment, biodiversity, animal wellbeing, and cultural and socio-economic dimensions. Our main conclusion is that UPFs are associated with intensive agriculture/livestock and threaten all dimensions of food system sustainability due to the combination of low-cost ingredients at purchase and increased consumption worldwide. However, low-animal-calorie UPFs do not produce the highest greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) compared to conventional meat and dairy products. In addition, only reducing energy dense UPF intake, without substitution, might substantially reduce GHGEs. Therefore, significant improvement in food system sustainability requires urgently encouraging limiting UPF consumption to the benefit of mildly processed foods, preferably seasonal, organic, and local products.
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