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Climate-Neutral Beef, Dairy Could Reach Store Shelves by 2050, According to New Research

Authors pinpoint two key controls necessary for creating livestock that eliminates environmental impact of large-scale food production  

A newly-published white paper, “Pathway to Climate Neutrality for U.S. Beef and Dairy Cattle Production” by Drs. Sara E. Place, chief sustainability officer for Elanco Animal Health (NYSE: ELAN) and Frank M. Mitloehner, professor and director of the CLEAR Center at University of California, Davis, reviews the latest science on the climate change impacts of U.S. cattle production, and arrives at concrete, actionable conclusions.

The question of climate change is one of immediacy. According to the United Nations, the world must begin significantly reducing emissions in this decade to prevent irreversible damage to the planet.

“With the strain of hunger on our growing population, nutrient-dense foods like beef and dairy are important to have on the literal and figurative table,” said Dr. Place. “But because cattle are natural recyclers – consuming plants that we either don’t want to eat or can’t eat – their place in the climate conversation is an important one.”

Dr. Place detailed her findings during the Goals and Partnerships for a Sustainable Food System panel at this week’s 2021 Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Annual Meeting.

“Talking about measuring emissions from an animal is different from, say, a tailpipe, whose measurement and control is straightforward,” said Dr. Place. “With livestock, we’re operating with a moving process that has daily variables. In that environment, measurement and benchmarking are key components to moving forward. We can see the path; we just have to get people to it.”

Key findings of the paper include:

  • Clear Metrics: It is important that climate metrics represent temperature change impacts across future emissions scenarios, quantifying GHG emissions by how they impact temperature over time. This is particularly important as the Paris Agreement is about limiting global temperature increases relative to pre-industrial times to well-below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Identification of Meaningful Impact: Most greenhouse gas emissions from live cattle production are non-CO2 gases, including methane (CH4) which is a short-lived gas. Controlling methane emissions will have a more immediate impact on temperature than gases that stay in the environment longer, such as CO2.
  • Look to Feedyards and Beyond: The bulk of methane emissions from beef cattle production come from cattle on pastures and not those in feedyards. Innovations related to grazing cattle should be targeted, including delivering feed additives, and developing low-methane emitting breeding strategies.
  • Manure Management: For dairy production, enteric and manure methane emissions reductions will be critical, and can be influenced greatly through manure management techniques where the industry has already seen success. New manure management techniques, such as anaerobic biogas digesters, are one such strategy that is growing in importance in California. The dairy industry within the state has already achieved a 25 percent reduction in manure methane emissions since 2013.
  • Incentives: The best innovations work only with broad adoption and acceptance. Public and private partnerships as well as education and regulatory pathways will be critically important to support new innovation.

To view the full white paper, the executive summary and examine the data used in the case studies, please visit:

To learn more about what Elanco is doing to further the conversation on climate change, and the importance of animals for GHG reduction, please visit


Elanco Animal Health Incorporated (NYSE: ELAN) is a global leader in animal health dedicated to innovating and delivering products and services to prevent and treat disease in farm animals and pets, creating value for farmers, pet owners, veterinarians, stakeholders, and society as a whole. With nearly 70 years of animal health heritage, we are committed to helping our customers improve the health of animals in their care, while also making a meaningful impact on our local and global communities. At Elanco, we are driven by our vision of Food and Companionship Enriching Life and our Elanco Healthy Purpose™ Sustainability/ESG Pledges –all to advance the health of animals, people, and the planet. Learn more at


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