Joint Research Centre - European Commission

JOINT RESEARCH CENTRE
The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

A pig and a cow in a field

Livestock are an important source of GHG emissions in the EU (12-17%)© Goat girl (stock.xchng)

GHG emissions from the EU livestock sector could be mitigated by up to 60%

 

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock represent between 12 and 17% of the EU's global emissions (2007 data). A recently published study, co-authored by the JRC, looks at the production and consumption of livestock products, focusing particularly on the beef and dairy sectors. Results show that livestock emissions in the EU could be mitigated by up to 60% (around 377 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent), particularly by reducing consumption of animal products, minimising food waste and by producing beef and dairy on grassland instead of using intensive grain-fed production.

The article also reviews available mitigation options. After production, the highest emissions come from land use and land use change (LULUC) factors, followed by emissions from wasted food. Minimising this latter aspect would have the greatest impact on reducing GHG emissions. It is estimated that 20% of food products go to waste in developed countries, and livestock products account for 8-12.5% of this figure. By avoiding this, 39-79 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions could be mitigated.

In addition, considering that livestock account for 80% of anthropogenic land use and consume 35% of agricultural crops, land management practices should be optimised, intensive grain-fed production avoided and support provided to help avoid clearing forests for livestock grazing.

Consumption of animal products should also be reduced as, in addition to the environmental benefits, this would conform to healthier eating guidelines. The protein intake in the EU is 70% higher than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

 

13/03/13