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Greenhouse gas emission profiles of European livestock sectors
, Van den Berg M.
, Westhoek H.J.
, Witzke H.P.
, Velthof G.L.
, Oenema O.
1) Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, The Netherlands
2) PBL - Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
3) Eurocare and Bonn University, Bonn, Germany
There are increasing concerns about the ecological footprint of global animal production. We assessed
regional variations in dairy, beef, pork, poultry and egg production, and related greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions in the EU-27. The MITERRA-Europe model was used to calculate annual nutrient
flows and GHG emissions from agriculture in the EU-27. The sources of GHG emissions included
were enteric fermentation, manure management, direct and indirect N
The dairy sector has the highest GHG emission in the EU-27, directly followed by the beef sector.
Enteric fermentation is the main source of GHG emissions (36%) followed by N
O soil emissions, cultivation of
organic soils, liming, fossil fuel use and fertilizer production.
O soil emissions
(28%). On a per kg product basis, beef has by far the highest GHG emission, followed by pork, eggs,
poultry and milk. Among EU countries a large variation in GHG emissions per unit product exists,
which offers perspective to improve efficiencies and lower environmental impacts of animal
Analyses were made with the MITERRA-Europe model (Velthof et al., 2009), which calculates
annual nutrient flows and GHG emissions from agriculture in the EU-27. Main input data were
derived from CAPRI (crop areas, livestock distribution, feed inputs), GAINS (animal numbers,
excretion factors, NH
emission factors), FAO statistics (crop yields, fertilizer consumption, animal
production) and IPCC (CH
emission factors). First, we quantified the area of agricultural
land needed for animal feed production. Next, we assessed GHG emissions from different sources
related to livestock production. Then, based on these data, average GHG emissions per livestock
sector and animal product were determined. The sources of GHG emissions included were enteric
fermentation, manure management, direct and indirect N
O soil emissions, cultivation of organic
soils, liming, fossil fuel use and fertilizer production.
Livestock farming has a significant impact on global warming with about 10% of the total GHG
emissions in the EU-27. This share would be even larger if emissions from land use change as a result
of soybean cultivation in Latin America and those associated with transport, processing and packing
were included. The dairy sector has the highest GHG emission with an annual emission of 195 Tg
-eq in the EU-27, followed by the beef sector with 192 Tg CO
-eq (Fig. 1). Enteric fermentation
was the main source of GHG emissions in the European livestock sector (36%) followed by N
emissions (28%). On a per kg product basis, beef had by far the highest GHG emission with 22.6 kg
-eq/kg, milk had an emission of 1.3 kg CO
-eq/kg, pork 3.5 kg CO
-eq/kg, poultry 1.6 kg CO
eq/kg, and eggs 1.7 kg CO
Dairy cows Beef cattle Pigs Poultry Laying hens
GHG emission (Mton CO
Fuel and electricity use
Organic soils and liming
N2O soil emission
-eq/kg (Table 1). However, among EU countries large variations in GHG
emissions per unit product exist, which can be explained by differences in animal production systems,
feed types and nutrient use efficiencies. There are, however, substantial uncertainties in the base data
and applied methodology such as assumptions surrounding allocation of feeds to livestock species.
Results of our study provide insight into differences in GHG sources and emissions among animal
production sectors for the various regions of Europe.
Total greenhouse gas emissions from the various emission sources associated with livestock
production in the EU-27
Table 1. Feed conversion ratio (mass of dry weight feed consumed per mass of product produced), surface
area for feed and forage, and GHG emission per kg product for the EU-27.
Feed conversion ratio
Surface area for feed and forage
kg feed/kg product
Lesschen, J.P., Van den Berg, M., Westhoek, H.J., Witzke, H.P. and Oenema, O. (in press). Greenhouse gas
emission profiles of European livestock sectors. Animal Feed Science & Technology.
Velthof, G.L., Oudendag, D., Witzke, H.P., Asman, W.A.H., Klimont, Z., Oenema, O. (2009) Integrated
assessment of nitrogen emissions from agriculture in EU-27 using MITERRA-EUROPE. Journal of
Environmental Quality 38, 402-417