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Weekly Overview: Pig Industry's Contribution to Global Greenhouse Gases

16 June 2014

GLOBAL - Among the interesting new information presented at the World Meat Congress in Beijing reported by ThePigSite Editor-in-Chief, Chris Harris, is that the pig sector is responsible for less than 10 per cent of the carbon dioxide-equivalents produced by the world's livestock. Animal welfare is becoming a major trade issue, the Congress also heard.

Livestock produce 7.1 giga-tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) per year, equivalent to 14.5 per cent of the total human-induced emissions, writes Chris Harris from the World Meat Congress, which is taking place in Beijing, China, this week.

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 GHG emissions from the sector are from land use for feed, which accounts for 33 per cent of the total. Among livestock production, the beef and dairy sectors produce the most GHG emissions, while the poultry and pig sectors produce the least - just nine per cent (0.7 giga-tonnes) of the livestock CO2-equivalent emissions.

Also on environmental aspects of sustainability, Jamie Burr from Tyson Fresh Meats spoke to pork producers at the World Pork Expo recently about the Four Pillars of Sustainability initiative in the US and the future focus on producer accountability.

"We are addressing a changing market place where consumers are further removed from production agriculture and are increasingly concerned about where food comes from," said Mr Burr. "We need their trust. American producers are trying to take public trust to the next level. Sustainability is not something new to the pork industry."

Pork Checkoff has been focusing on The Four Pillars of Sustainability: carbon, water, air and land footprints.

Delegates at the World Meat Congress have also heard that animal welfare issues could become a new trade barrier following a landmark ruling by the World Trade Organization.

Speaking at the International Meat Secretariat Veal Committee meeting running up to the full congress at the week end, Jacques Servière, senior scientist at INRA and IMS Scientific Advisor said that there is a going public awareness of animal welfare issues in the production of meat.

"A large number of people are beginning to be interested in animal welfare," Dr Servière said, adding "Animal welfare should now be regarded as a new moral trade barrier."

Also on the subject of sustainability, farmers are seeing the value of switching to outcome measures to increase profitability as part of building on their sustainable farming practices.

"Farmers are business-focused – they are constantly looking for efficiencies that can increase their profitability and overall sustainability of their business. To do that, they need to identify aspects in their operation that can be improved," said Ruth Layton. She is Veterinary Director within the Sustainability Science Division of Benchmark Holdings plc – a sustainable food chain business with practical research farming operations in the UK and Brazil.

For the latest information on porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED) outbreaks around the world, click here.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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