April 22, 2010
ROMEThe dairy sector accounts for approximately 4 percent of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) according to the FAO report Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector. This figure includes both emissions associated with the production, processing and transportation of milk products as well as emissions related to meat produced from animals originating from the dairy system.
Considering just global milk production, processing and transportation and excluding meat production, the sector contributes 2.7 percent of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.
In 2007, the dairy sector emitted 1,969 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, of which 1 328 million tons are attributed to milk, 151 million tons to meat from culled dairy animals, and 490 million tons from calves from the dairy sector that were raised for meat. The CO2 equivalent emission is a standard measurement for comparing emissions of different GHGs.
The global average of GHG emissions per kilogram of milk and related milk products is estimated at 2.4 kg CO2 equivalent.
Methane contributes most to the global warming impact of milk, accounting for about 52 percent of the GHG emissions in both developing and developed countries. Nitrous oxide emissions account for 27 percent of GHG emissions in developed countries and 38 percent in developing countries. Carbon dioxide accounts for a higher share of emissions in developed countries (21 percent) than in developing countries (10 percent).
The FAO report covers all major milk production systems from nomadic herds to intensified dairy operations. It focuses on the entire dairy food chain, including the production and transport of inputs (fertilizer, pesticide and feed) used for dairy farming, on-farm emissions and emissions associated with milk processing and packaging as well as the transportation of milk products to retailers. The margin of error of the estimates is ±26 percent.
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