According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 14.5% of all greenhouse emissions are attributable to the livestock industry. This calculation takes various stages of the livestock supply chain into account, which includes animal feeding, farm energy use, and post-slaughter animal transport. As a result, eating less meat or adopting a vegetarian diet are often touted as ways for individuals to decrease their carbon footprint, particularly in developed countries.
But what about developing nations?
As certain developing countries, particularly Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), experience rapid population and income growth, demand for livestock products has also increased. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat consumption in developing countries is expected to increase by 2.4% each year over the next ten years, compared to a 0.9% increase in developed nations; this increase in meat consumption would significantly increase global greenhouse gas emissions. Given that, is it possible to meet the rising demand for meat without exacerbating environmental problems?
According to researchers Havlik et. al., the answer is yes. In a recent study, the researchers claim that improving the efficiency of livestock production systems would limit land conversion from forests to grazing areas and could potentially minimize an increase in greenhouse emissions. Additionally, if farmers shift to poultry and pork products that produce less emissions than ruminant animals – such as sheep, goats, cattle – it is possible to temper global greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, even as the demand for meat increases.