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Livestock sector has multi-faceted plan to tackle climate changes

The industry is tackling the challenge — and its critics — by being proactive

Animal industry efficiency and environmental sustainability are improving.

The climate change conference in Paris brought together world leaders and countless economic organizations vowing to improve the environment.

Among them was the International Meat Secretariat, which represents livestock and meat groups. Jurgen Preugschas, former chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, is chairman of the IMS Sustainable meat committee.

“We are working together with many stakeholders, including an important ongoing project with the Food and Agriculture Organization to develop global guidelines in the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance partnership,” he said in a statement after the Paris meeting.

Participants agreed to work together to confront charges from some critics that livestock production is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.

IMS president Guillaume Roue, said: “We all come from different countries, with different production systems, and we are all commercial competitors. But it is important that we work together on key issues that affect us all, like greenhouse gas emissions, animal welfare and human health and nutrition.

“We are proud to provide high-quality, nutritious and delicious animal protein as an essential part of a healthy, sustainable diet.”

In a statement at the end of its meeting, the IMS said, “Huge strides are being made around the world to improve the efficiency of and environmental sustainability of meat production. GHG emissions per kg of meat produced have been reduced by adopting innovative health and husbandry practices and tools that support sustainable and environmentally responsible production of animal protein, utilizing fewer resources and resulting in less environmental impact.

The statement said the industry is working with all partners in the production chain and is:

  • Improving animal breeding and health programs to raise productivity and developing better animal nutrition to avoid carbon or nitrogen losses in the atmosphere.
  • Promoting manure management practices to recycle nutrients and energy and enhance profitability from this natural fertilizer, while reducing ammonia and methane emissions.
  • Preserving the soil by optimizing grass production, managing grazing land for ruminants, preventing erosion, and avoiding overgrazing, with benefits in carbon sequestration.
  • Using best technologies in meat processing to optimize resources, significantly reducing the use of water and energy, while at the same time improving working conditions.

As well, the industry is assisting in a significant reduction “in deforestation through sustainable intensification.”

Delegates also called for “an open and balanced discussion that promotes further progress in sustainability, including the many positive contributions from livestock.”

Livestock production “uses mainly land not suited for crops and for which there is no other productive use.” Animals “are efficient recyclers, transforming 80 per cent of all feed that is not edible, such as grass, biomass, crop residues and byproducts, into high-value nutritious animal protein. They also produce important byproducts including power, fibre, medicines, slurry for biogas, and manure to maintain soil fertility, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers.”

Meat production is “necessary for food and nutrition security and diversity to diets, and help address the multiple challenges of malnutrition, which include wasting, stunting, obesity, and anemia in women of reproductive age.”

According to the FAO, the livestock industry including dairy contributes about 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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