A study released earlier this week shows how an animal’s geographic location and diet changes its efficiency in producing byproducts and meat and the amount of greenhouse gasses it produces.
The study released Monday, titled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), analyzes livestock feed available to cows, sheep, pigs, poultry and other farm animals in different parts of the world and their efficiency in converting feed into milk, eggs and meat. The study goes on to measure the greenhouse gas production of livestock in different regions.
Results of the study show livestock in many parts of the developing world are less efficient in converting feed to food. One finding shows cattle in arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa required up to ten times more feed, mainly in the form of rangeland grasses, to produce a kilo of protein compared to a cow in more favorable conditions. Livestock in developing countries also produced more significant levels of greenhouse gasses.
Mario Herrero, lead author of the study, says results show there isn’t one global solution to livestock production and challenges should be addressed on a smaller, even situation-specific, scale.
"Our goal is to provide the data needed so that the debate over the role of livestock in our diets and our environments and the search for solutions to the challenges they present can be informed by the vastly different ways people around the world raise animals," said Herrero.
Harvard University's William C. Clark, editorial board member of the Sustainability Science section at PNAS, emphasized the importance of sustainable development in “a very resource-challenged world,” and pointed to the role livestock play in food security issues.
On a global basis, pork and poultry is produced more efficiently than dairy and beef.
According to a release, findings in the study fill a critical gap in research on the interactions between livestock and natural resources region by region.
The study was completed by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).