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Global look at environmental footprint of livestock production

Global livestock production is projected to double by 2050 and the majority of this growth will be occurring in the developing world.

Much of the growth in the global livestock sector will occur in areas that are currently forested (i.e., parts of South America and South East Asia), it has been well established that significant reductions of carbon sequestering forests will have large effects on global climate change, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the University of California-Davis explained at the 2015 JAM.

Mitloehner said livestock production in most countries of the developed world (e.g., U.S. and Europe) have a relatively small greenhouse gas (GHG) contribution within the countries' overall carbon portfolios, dwarfed by large transportation, energy and other industry sectors.

In contrast, livestock production in the developing world, he said, can be a dominant contributor to a country's GHG portfolio, due to the developing world's significantly smaller transportation and energy sectors. The fact that land-use changes associated with livestock (i.e., forested land converted to pasture or cropland used for feed production) are a significant source of anthropogenic GHGs in Latin America and other parts of the developing world is apparent.

The Food & Agriculture Organization attributes almost half of the climate-change impact associated with livestock to the change of land-use patterns but the U.S. and most other developed countries have not experienced significant land-use change practices around livestock production within the last few decades, sometimes centuries, Mitloehner said.

Intensification of livestock production provides large opportunities for climate change mitigation and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, thus becoming a long-term solution to a more sustainable livestock production, noted Mitloehner. He explained that overall, growing demands for animal protein could strongly increase GHG emissions from agriculture but that knowledge exists to improve efficiencies in livestock production, which dramatically reduces GHG per unit of production.

What is called for is a sustainable intensification in animal agriculture, coupled with technology transfers from developed to developing countries, to supply a growing demand for animal protein using sustainable and modern production practices, Mitloehner said.

source: ADSA JAM coverage

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