The livestock industry continues to be under the microscope when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions associated with raising animals for meat. A growing number of public figures have denounced diets that include meat on the basis that animals contribute to increasing methane and nitrous oxide levels.

Leading researchers from around the world met in Banff, Alberta last week to discuss how the livestock industry can go from being a major emitter to being a leader in mitigation. The scientists focused on ways of reducing emissions without compromising production.

"What our objectives are, are to put some science around that, to come up with some figures, because a lot of the information that's coming out is not based on science," says Dr. Tim McAllister, ruminant nutrition and microbiology research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

He says cattle are not necessarily the villains they are made out to be. "We really have to look at them as part of the ecosystem, just as we are. The perform a number of important functions...when you look at it from a global perspective, many cows are a source of equity. They use them as power in terms of draft for plowing. They occupy a lot of the grassland ecosystems that otherwise would have been cultivated if we didn't use ruminants to provide value from that grass."

McAllister says it's important that research on greenhouse gas mitigation strategies continue. "As scientists we have to look to the future and try to envision where things are going, so if the industry moves in that direction and economics change, that there will be economic vaiability and we'll have those technologies ready for instant implementation when those conditions arrive."

Moving forward, he says the federal government will be working together with researchers from other countries to address some of the environmental challenges related to livestock production.

~ Wednesday, October 13, 2010 ~