Animal agriculture has dramatically increased its production efficiency over time, as it continues to produce more products with fewer resources. Although its overall carbon footprint is relatively small compared to other sectors of the economy such as energy and transportation, it is often called upon to defend its impact on the environment. Recent commitments made by livestock and poultry industry groups to reduce greenhouse gas emissions shows that animal agriculture is willing to do its part as good stewards of shared natural resources and to protect the environment.
Factsheet: Mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Animal Agriculture (look below the fact sheet and title for a "download" link)
Measures to mitigate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be weighed on a farm by farm basis, as types of animal production among species and geographic locations are extremely diverse. There is no magic bullet or one size fits all solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions among animal agriculture.
There are four main approaches to mitigation greenhouse gas emissions in livestock and poultry systems.
(1) Production efficiency - producing more output of meat, milk and eggs per unit input (water, feed, fertilizer, etc.)
(2) Manure management – applying manure collection, storage, and disposal practices that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time address water and air quality concerns.
(3) Energy efficiency - as we continue the trend toward more controlled environments within animal production, there is a growing need to be more energy efficient in our lighting, heating and cooling systems.
(4) Carbon capture (also called carbon sequestration) – capturing and storing carbon in the soil by maintaining cover crops, or by planting trees or other perennial vegetation increases organic matter content and also retains carbon that would have otherwise been released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Also see a related project on pork production and environmental footprint.
If you would like to use the video, slides, or factsheet for educational programs, please visit the curriculum page for download links for this and other climate change topics.
To find more resources on this and related topics, visit the animalagclimatechange.org resource finder.
Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities for Livestock Management in the United States (Duke University Nicholas Institute, 2012)
Mitigation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Livestock Production (FAO, 2013)
Livestock's Long Shadow, FAO report
Dietary Mitigation of Enteric Methane from Cattle (Beauchemin, K. A. et al., 2009)
Author: David Schmidt, University of Minnesota firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was developed as part of a project "Animal Agriculture and Climate Change" an extension facilitation project to increase capacity for ag professionals. It was funded by USDA-NIFA under award # 2011-67003-30206.