Their analysis, published in Nature Climate Change, claims to be the most comprehensive yet as it considers both the supply and demand sides of the industry.
The livestock sector supports about 1.3bn producers and retailers around the world, and is a significant global economic contributor. It is also responsible for a significant proportion of the greenhouse gases emitted each year.
The paper’s lead author, Mario Herrero, said the best mitigation potential could be taken from an integrated view of land use and practice change that considered the whole of agriculture and forestry, as well as looking at dietary patterns and how the needs of global nutrition could be addressed.
"Livestock has a role in a healthy and sustainable diet, and the sector has an important economic and social role, particularly in developing countries," said Dr Herrero, of Australia’s government research institute, Csiro.
"We need to balance these health outcomes and the economic and social benefits, while also capturing the mitigation potential the livestock sector can offer."
Dr Herrero said sustainably intensifying livestock production is one way this can be done.
"We've found that there are a number of ways that the livestock sector can contribute to global greenhouse gas mitigation," he said.
"New management practices such as rotational grazing and dietary supplements can increase livestock production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"We need to increase the adoption of these different strategies by making sure that we have the right incentives.
"If appropriately managed with the right regulatory framework, these practices can also achieve improved environmental health over and above the greenhouse gas benefits delivered, for example through improved ground cover and soil carbon."
Source: Nature Climate Change
“Greenhouse gas mitigation potentials in the livestock sector.”
Authors: Mario Herrero et al.