Livestock (beef and sheep) carbon footprint shrinking

Performance improvements in the beef and sheep production sector in England have resulted in lower GHG emissions in almost every decade for the past 40 years, a new modelling project has estimated.

The beef sector has reduced its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) output by an equivalent of 9.4% every decade.  The figures for sheep, though hindered by a lack of consistent quality data, still showed a reduction over the period and in the last ten years alone this delivered a credible reduction of 9.3% through greater output per ewe and reduced reliance on artificial fertiliser.

The work, commissioned by EBLEX working with The E-C02 Project, using historic performance and production data for beef cattle between 1970 and 2010, backed by estimated values based on E-CO2 models, shows the beef carbon footprint fell from 23.05kg of carbon dioxide equivalents (kg CO2-e) per kilogram of liveweight, to 14.41kg CO2-e. For sheep, the figure fell from 13.8kg CO2-e to 11.78kg CO2-e over that period.

However, with the UK Climate Change Act 2008 requiring an overall reduction of 80% in GHGs from 1990 levels by 2050 across the UK economy, the scale of challenge for beef and sheep meat producers should not be underestimated.