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A report — described as the most detailed of its kind — examined livestock production (cattle, small ruminants, pigs, and poultry, as well as milk and eggs) for 28 regions around the world and points out the diversity of ways livestock are raised worldwide and what this means for the Earth and for people.
Concerns have already been raised about the rapid rise in global meat consumption. And multiple reports have concluded that these increasing levels are not sustainable.
This new report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, enhances the understanding of the sustainability of livestock systems and their role in food security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability.
Livestock make up the largest land use on Earth, and demand for livestock products is expected to grow considerably in the coming decades. So it’s important to find solutions to be more sustainable.
The data highlights several areas where livestock production can be improved: Better diets, feeds, and feeding techniques can equal reduced emissions overall.
Cattle are the top greenhouse gas emitters
Cattle in developing countries produce more greenhouse gases than in other areas. The developing world accounts for 75 percent of the global emissions from cattle and other ruminants and 56 percent of the global emissions from poultry and pigs.
In poor countries, cattle bred for meat and dairy can emit 100 times more Earth-warming carbon dioxide than those in rich countries.
And globally, cattle account for 77 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the most climate-friendly livestock are pork and poultry, which only account for 10 percent of emissions. Pork and poultry are also the most feed efficient.
Meat consumption must change
So, yes, meat production must change, but so, too, must meat consumption.
“Demand management has to be part of the solution as well,” says Mario Herrero, co-author of the paper.
Reducing global intake of meat is important for sustainability (so we can continue to live here on Earth,) but also for our health, to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and colorectal cancer.
We already know that global warming is our fault, so we must take action to improve and keep our world, especially those of us in developing worlds, because we can make that choice.
“If we account for how much we consume in general terms — and the fact that we are responsible for most of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions — then we should modify our diets and eat fewer animals products, if we can,” Herrero says.
Think meat consumption can be green? Then check out this article about why eating meat isn’t eco-friendly now or in the foreseeable future.