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WORLD MEAT CONGRESS: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Livestock

16 June 2014

ANALYSIS - Livestock is producing 7.1 giga-tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) per year – 14.5 per cent of the total human induce emissions, writes Chris Harris from the World Meat Congress in Beijing.

However, a new programme from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the Global Livestock Environment Assessment Model (GLEAM) could help livestock producers reduce the global footprint of production, Neil Fraser chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock told the Congress.

The major causes of greenhouse gas emission from the sector are from degrade land use which accounts for 26 per cent of the emissions and the land use for feed which accounts for 33 per cent of the emissions.

However, the provision of food for poorer countries needs to be addressed through livestock production as it provides both food and employment particularly in emerging countries and livestock at present supplies 26 per cent of the global protein needs.

Among livestock production the beef and dairy sectors produce the most greenhouse gas emissions while the poultry and pig sectors produce the least. The global pig sector produces just nine per cent (0.7 giga tonnes) of the livestock CO2 greenhouse gas equivalent emissions.

The major areas for emissions from the beef and dairy sectors are from methane through enteric fermentation and then because of land change and then the feed production used in many production systems.

However, Mr Fraser said that the beef and dairy sectors could reduce their impact through improved feed quality, better herd performance and by looking at land use change.

He said there is no single answer to the problem but to help reduce the impact of livestock production, the GLEAM model that has produced a “disaggregated assessments of global greenhouse gas emissions”.

Mr Fraser said that the model carries out an economic analysis of the mitigation costs and the benefits and engages the operators in the sector.

The model computes emissions at a local level and generates ranges of emissions at different scales and allows for analysis of different scenarios.

The model mainly looks at emissions from land and water use but is also starting to look at biodiversity.

While the cattle sector tops the table, the pig sector, with the lowest emissions also has areas it can address.

The large industrial pig farms create the most greenhouse gas emissions because of their size, and while back yard producers in the sector create less in scale, their low feed emissions are off-set by their poor feed conversion rates.

The new model is not only a means of reducing emissions but also a means of improving profits, because by looking at better land use, better feed balancing and production health and genetics to reduce emissions can improve productivity which in turn improves profit, Mr Fraser concluded.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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