Living with livestock
How can livestock help us create a resilient, sustainable
farming and food system?
Food Climate Research Network ‐ University of Surrey
9 December 2009
• Livestock and GHGs: what contribution?
• Two key issues for livestock and their impacts:
• Livestock in the global context
– Why is this relevant?
• How do these factors affect whether livestock
are a burden, or a blessing?
• Livestock: some possible futures
Some things we know about meat and dairy
• Most GHG intensive food category (on the whole) ‐ as
measured using a range of functional units.
• Most of its impacts occur at the farm stage
• UK meat and dairy consumption (incl imports excl
exports) accounts for 8% UK emissions (incl imports
• EBLEX report finds UK beef and sheep production
direct emissions = 2.7% UK emissions.
Is 2.7% a lot?
• Compare car travel by purpose as % UK GHG
emissions(ie. the problem of disaggregating
problems to nothing...)
And the growing problem of land use
• Research commissioned by FCRN & WWF‐UK finds that
land use change (LUC) adds another 50% on top of UK
• In total LUC accounts for 40% of (now higher) food GHG
• More than ¾ is attributable to livestock.
• Source: An assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from the UK food system
and the scope for reduction by 2050: How low can we go? Produced by
Cranfield University, Ecometrica and Murphy‐Bokern Associates.
• NB: report also confirms that both tech and dietary
change are needed
What does LCA tell us about
different types of livestock?
• On the face of it – white meat is ‘better’ than
red meat. Why?
• Feed conversion efficiency: Pigs and poultry
convert feed into edible meat/eggs more
efficiency (energy not lost as methane)
• Methane: No methane (except pig manure)
• Land: less land is needed to produce a given
volume of white meat than red
• BUT ...
... this is too simplistic
• We need also to consider:
• Not just how much but what kind of land is
being used to feed and rear the animals
• What we do about demand and how demand
trajectories influence the conclusions
Land use and pigs & poultry
• Intensive pigs and poultry systems use less land overall
than ruminants BUT
• The land they do use is prime arable land – for cereal
and soy production
• This land is also needed for to grow grains for human
• In a resource constrained world – is using prime
agricultural land to grow grains to feed to pigs the most
sensible thing to do?
• Demand for agricultural land is growing and will lead to
LUC = CO2 release
Land use & intensive ruminant production
• Depend on grains and oilseeds – land / grains
could be used to feed humans – same issues as
for pigs and poultry
• Use more land per unit edible output than pigs
• Feed conversion lower than pigs & poultry
• A triple whammy (although methane is lower
than extensive ruminant systems)
Land use & extensive systems:
• Make use of land unsuited to crop production (resource
• Can help store carbon in soil
• Sustain ecosystem services (water, biodiversity, soil,
• Consume byproducts from other food & agricultural
sectors (resource efficiency)
• Give us something for nothing – meat , wool, leather – all
from agricultural waste and poor quality land
• Higher methane per kg needs to be seen in this context
But ‐ land use & extensive systems:
• Cause soil degradation and carbon losses
• Cause deforestation (eg. Amazon) & CO2 release
• Reduce biodiversity and water storage capacities
• Yield little meat for much climate change and
Demand trajectories are key
Global trends in demand are
Meat & dairy set to nearly double
Production in developing world already higher – most of growth in demand
set to come from developing world
BUT inequality continues
per cap meat to 2050
Source: FAO 2006
Is it really all China’s fault?
Meat kg / per capita / yr Milk kg / per capita / yr
UK 83 242
China 54 16
India 5 67
Kenya 15 98
The ‘Which livestock and in what system?
question depends on what you
do about demand
• If demand is seen as inevitable & unconstrainable then:
– Pigs and poultry are the least bad option
– Extensive ruminants are the worst option
• But in a world where limits are placed on demand then we
can ask: “How do livestock best make use of the land we
have available while contributing to multiple ecosystem
– Extensive ruminants may be the best option
– Industrial pig & poultry have nothing to offer
What if things were different?
• How do the GHG impacts of different livestock
systems and consumption practices look when
we adopt differing definitions of:
– An acceptable diet: nutritional needs vs demand
– Role and value of different land uses and
– Animal welfare
– Freedom (to buy)?
4 scenarios – different variables
• Demand versus needs
– Emissions per kg product wanted vs emissions per nutritional need fulfilled
• Land efficiency versus land reconnection
– Land use /emissions per kg product vs matching agriculture to land availabilty
by type and appropriateness of use
• Absolute versus relative ethics:
– Meat and dairy foods: Physical supply versus equitable distribution
– Animal welfare: Intrinsic value versus extrinsic utility
– Biodiversity: Agroecology vs biodiversity havens ‐ and differences in how we
assign value to diversity
– Freedom: To choose versus freedom from hunger
• For each scenario: What are the implications for GHG emissions and
how would you need to define and deal with the above?
How do you reduce demand?
I don’t know ‐ but...
We need to work it out
• We cannot achieve a global 50% cut in agricultural GHGs (with a pop
of 9bn) unless we tackle demand
• The developed world must lead the way (this is central to the
• If the developed world is to achieve an 80‐90% cut in GHG emissions
there are lots of things we need to do that sound uncomfortable
• We need approaches that combine fiscal measures; regulation;
voluntary agreements; availability of alternatives; awareness raising
• Production & consumption measures must go together
• Farmers mustn’t lose out
Food Climate Research Network