New report highlights opportunities for meat and dairy companies to create innovative solutions and incentives for meeting climate targets

Businesses have a unique opportunity to drive innovation to reduce enteric methane, according to a new report. Companies with beef and dairy in their supply chains can play a critical role in reducing global enteric emissions by creating incentives and by investing in technologies that are tailored to the needs and concerns of farmers and ranchers. 

Enteric emissions, emitted during the digestive process of ruminants like cows, are the single largest source of agricultural methane emissions. More practices, products and technologies that reduce manure and enteric methane emissions from beef and dairy production must come to market if we are to reach global climate targets – and some already are. But, too often, environmentally beneficial technologies are created in a vacuum, without considering the needs of farmers and ranchers, the end users. This prevents adoption from happening at scale.

Tackling Enteric Methane shares first-hand perspectives from farmers and ranchers on enteric methane emissions and their willingness to adopt mitigation solutions, particularly with the right incentives in place. These findings can be used to inform the design of technologies and financial programs that will increase the uptake of climate-smart practices. 

Why taking action on enteric emissions is a business and climate must

Reducing methane emissions is critical for slowing global warming and avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Tackling methane is also necessary from a business perspective. Here are three reasons why:

Meet climate goals. Companies and governments across the globe won’t meet climate targets, including net zero, without tackling methane, and, more specifically, enteric emissions. A quarter of all anthropogenic methane emissions in the U.S. are from enteric fermentation, primarily from ruminant livestock. Enteric emissions is the single largest emissions category for both beef and dairy products: Life cycle assessments show that enteric makes up over 30% of the climate impacts for dairy products and over 50% for beef. This percentage goes up even more if you consider the 20-year warming potential of methane emissions. 

Get ahead of forthcoming regulation. Tackling enteric emissions now enables companies to be prepared in the face of increased regulations. Already we’re seeing states implement rules around methane, as California’s requirement to cut methane 40% by 2030. While this law doesn’t include agricultural emissions yet, beef and dairy companies with supply chains in California are looking for opportunities to get ahead of potential future ag-specific methane regulation. 

Signal to stakeholders. The Global Methane Pledge announced last year put methane front and center in global climate conversations and ignited momentum to swiftly reduce methane emissions, including agricultural methane emissions. Additionally, consumer sentiment for more sustainable products continues to rise, and companies face potential market loss to alternative proteins that are being touted as more environmentally friendly options. Given these pressures, meat and dairy companies have the opportunity to signal to investors, policymakers and consumers that they are investing in and adopting solutions to drive down global methane emissions as a critical part of climate strategies. 

Use perspectives from farmers and ranchers to inform the design of effective solutions 

According to the report, overall awareness from farmers and ranchers on the impact that enteric emissions have on the climate is low. As a result, only 20% of producer respondents agree to some degree that reducing enteric emissions now is an important priority. This number grew by 15% when asked if tackling enteric would be important 3-5 years from now, signaling openness to adopting practices over time. 

While awareness of the need to reduce enteric emissions is on the rise, there remain barriers to adopting solutions – the most significant being cost. Only 30% of respondents reported that they would be willing to adopt an enteric solution if they had to bear the cost. Unfortunately, few enteric solutions in the U.S. have demonstrated productivity gains, which reduces producer interest. 

Private and public stakeholders should develop systems of incentives that will bear the cost of enteric solutions so that it is financially feasible for producers to incorporate them into their operations. This research showed that two incentives would be most beneficial to drive adoption: 

  • 10% improved productivity: Increase in milk or beef production was the largest factor that would influence adoption of enteric solutions. Companies can provide funding and research support resourcing to accelerate the development of yield-boosting solutions to help incent rapid uptake of climate-friendly practices. 
  • Premium price received for low-carbon products: Companies can create an incentive system to catalyze producer adoption of better practices. 

Looking ahead, companies can follow a four-step model to allocate funding and resources for helping to maximize the adoption of enteric solutions. Download the report here to gain access to these findings and the model.