Livestock greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation potential in Europe

Jessica Bellarby, Reyes Tirado, Adrian Leip, Franz Weiss, Jan Peter Lesschen, Pete Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

181 Citations (Scopus)


The livestock sector contributes considerably to global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Here, for the year 2007 we examined GHG emissions in the EU27 livestock sector and estimated GHG emissions from production and consumption of livestock products; including imports, exports and wastage. We also reviewed available mitigation options and estimated their potential. The focus of this review is on the beef and dairy sector since these contribute 60% of all livestock production emissions. Particular attention is paid to the role of land use and land use change (LULUC) and carbon sequestration in grasslands. GHG emissions of all livestock products amount to between 630 and 863 Mt CO(2)e, or 1217% of total EU27 GHG emissions in 2007. The highest emissions aside from production, originate from LULUC, followed by emissions from wasted food. The total GHG mitigation potential from the livestock sector in Europe is between 101 and 377 Mt CO(2)e equivalent to between 12 and 61% of total EU27 livestock sector emissions in 2007. A reduction in food waste and consumption of livestock products linked with reduced production, are the most effective mitigation options, and if encouraged, would also deliver environmental and human health benefits. Production of beef and dairy on grassland, as opposed to intensive grain fed production, can be associated with a reduction in GHG emissions depending on actual LULUC emissions. This could be promoted on rough grazing land where appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number1
Early online date20 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • carbon sequestration
  • consumption
  • Europe
  • grassland
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • livestock
  • mitigation
  • waste


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