Reducing Emissions from Livestock

Decarbonization Avenue : Reducing Emissions from Livestock

Just like humans, livestock also exhale CO2 during respiration, but this is a net zero emission. Livestock also emit significant amounts of methane arising from enteric fermentation within their bodies and release in their burps/belches, and to a smaller extent, flatulence (fart). As methane is a far more potential GHG than CO2, these emissions assume significance.

Livestock emissions represent about 7 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year, about 14% of total GHG emissions. Cattle raised for both beef and milk alone are responsible for most of these emissions, and represent about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions.

There have been many efforts to reduce emissions from livestock. On one hand, concepts such as plant based meat and cell-based meat are trying to eliminate large scale breeding of livestock for food, On the other, innovations in livestock feed - use of seaweed as a feed ingredient, for instance - have proven successful in reducing the total amount of emissions from livestock, though these are yet to be adopted on a large scale by the livestock industry worldwide.

A key challenge in scaling many of the decarbonization solutions for livestock is that a large portion of livestock and animal husbandry sector comprises small family holdings, making it difficult to scale many of the innovations due to challenges in access and implementing new solutions in a relatively unorganized sector.

For the 2020-2030 period, key innovations in this domain will be around feed & feed additives and use of digital monitoring tools for intelligence and control.

Decarbonization potential

Livestock emissions are as high as about 7 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year, about 14% of total GHG emissions. Cattle raised for both beef and milk alone are responsible for most of these emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions.

The following statistics, based on FAO estimates, provide break-ups for the above emissions.

Feed production and processing, and enteric fermentation from ruminants are the two main sources of emissions, representing 45 and 39 percent of total emissions, respectively. Manure storage and processing represent 10 percent.

Beef and cattle milk are responsible for the most emissions, respectively, contributing 41 percent and 20 percent of the sector’s overall GHG outputs. They are followed by pig meat, (9%), buffalo milk and meat (8%), and chicken meat and eggs (8%).

Emission intensities are highest for beef (about 300 kg CO2-eq per kilogram of protein produced), followed by meat and milk from small ruminants (165 and 112kg respectively). Cow milk, chicken products and pork have much lower average emission intensities (less than 100 CO2-eq/kg.)

Industries impacted

  • Agriculture & farming
  • Food & beverages
  • Life sciences
  • Livestock
  • Waste management

Latest News on Reducing Emissions from Livestock

Themes & Topics

  • Sources of emissions

    • Cattle

    • Sheep & goat

    • Poultry

    • Pigs

  • Solutions

    • Better feed

    • Better monitoring & control through technology

    • Organic livestock husbandry

    • Sustainable management of livestock waste

    • Monitoring & analytics for sustainable livestock


  • Solutions for:

    • Smallholder livestock farming

    • Large livestock farms

  • Education/capacity building

  • Use of IT & digital tools

  • Regional case studies

    • North America

    • South America

    • Asia

    • Middle East & Africa

    • Europe

    • Oceania


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