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Increasing Livestock Sustainability with Methane-mitigating Feed Additives

Political, Regulatory and Market Considerations

Demand for animal protein in developed countries is stable and increasing strongly in emerging countries. The combination of their nutrient density, the desire of people to improve their diets and a growing world population will continue to drive future growth. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) projects that global demand for milk and meat will rise by 58% and 74% between 2010 and 2050.

Demand at that scale cannot be met solely through expansion; livestock must also be raised more efficiently and sustainably, and animal health solutions offer a path to achieve this goal. Reducing animal disease and optimising yield, through better genetics and preventative care means fewer animals are needed to meet the global demand for protein.

An emerging class of animal feed supplements that inhibit methane production in ruminants offers a promising new way to further reduce the climate footprint of livestock production. This article analyses political, regulatory, practical and market considerations related to the introduction and use of methane-reducing feed additives while offering recommendations to improve pathways to market.

The Emissions Challenge

The main GHG emissions (carbon dioxide (CO2 ), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2 O) are emitted from both natural and man-made sources (see Chart 1). Scientifically, the sources of emissions are irrelevant because the warming effect is the same, yet from a societal acceptance perspective there are differences. Society tends not to question naturally occurring biological processes created through millions of years of evolution – including for example ruminant enteric fermentation. But society does increasingly question the effect of many man-made activities, especially if they are wasteful and the emissions are significant.

To illustrate, unintentional methane leaks from energy production – often from poorly maintained pipelines – release about as much methane (3.11 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent annually) as all of agriculture (3.45 billion tonnes CO2 equivalent), and certainly more than ruminant enteric fermentation.

Methane is different than CO2 – it is 28 times more potent than CO2, but unlike CO2 , which has a life span of centuries, methane breaks down after 10 or so years. Cutting methane emissions therefore almost immediately reduces its concentrations in the atmosphere and slows warming. It is no surprise that over 150 countries support the Global Methane Pledge to lower methane overall emissions by 30% by 2030, and this target could be sharpened further.