FAO: greenhouse gases from meat-eating are still increasing

Global livestock farming is responsible for 12 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This share will increase further due to increasing meat consumption. That is why the UN Food Organization mainly recommends making the production of meat products more efficient.

With continued economic growth and ongoing urbanization worldwide, meat consumption is also growing, the study continues. Due to the growth of the world population, the consumption of animal proteins will increase by about a fifth (21%) between 2020 and 2050, reports Dow Jones News. Avoiding meat consumption would only have a limited impact on this.

In 2015, 810 million tons of milk, 78 million tons of eggs and 330 million tons of meat were produced worldwide, according to the study. Livestock in particular produces high greenhouse gas emissions; according to the research, this share is 62%.

Pig farming accounts for 14%, poultry for 9%, buffalo for 8%, and sheep and goats for 7%. In terms of the final product, meat production is responsible for 67% of greenhouse gases, milk for 30% and eggs for 3%.

Most emissions – approximately 60% – arise directly from flatulence and animal feces, the remaining approximately 40% arise indirectly, for example through the production of pesticides and fertilizers for animal feed, through livestock transport and through the clearing of primeval forest for fields and plantations to produce livestock feed.

The FAO recommends that the most effective way to reduce emissions from livestock farming is to increase productivity throughout the production chain. An example is higher milk production per cow. Other suggestions include improved breeding or means to improve animal digestion.

Avoiding meat consumption – especially in rich countries – is also a way to reduce emissions, according to the FAO study. However, the impact is limited, especially if the fruits and vegetables consumed instead are grown in energy-guzzling greenhouses or transported by air.