Animal based products (including dairy and poultry) have increasingly become a part of our eating lifestyle, with dairy products finding its mention in staple diets across the world. Globally, more than 80% of the population or 6 billion people are consuming milk and milk products, with the majority of the consumers residing in the developing countries. In the last three decades, world milk production has increased by more than 65%,from 530 million tonnes in 1988 to 883 million tonnes in 2019 and is expected to increase by 35% by 2030.

With its increased demand and exponential rise in production, animal husbandry is an integral part of the economy and provides employment opportunities to millions across the globe. The big question is why is everyone so worried about this sector, despite its massive contribution to the economy???

The simple answer is METHANE!!!


Traditionally, our requirements for milk and milk products have been satisfied by livestock animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep (generally called ruminants). These animals by simply grazing contribute to the second largest contributor of global warming, i.e. methane emissions. Ruminants generate methane in two main ways: through their digestion and through their waste. Currently, livestock production contributes at least 14.5 % of all greenhouse gas emissions If current production levels continue on the same trajectory, it is expected to account for nearly 81% of emissions, rising global temperatures by 1.5 degrees by 2050.

Source: Enteric fermentation process in cow (©2019 Let’s Talk Science)


Land use: Of the habitable land on earth that is available to us, 50% is used for agriculture. From this agricultural produce, 77% is used to feed livestock and just 23% is used to grow crops for human consumption. Yet, livestock only contributes 33% of our protein supply. Essentially, feeding crops to animals and then eating a part of the animal requires more crops than if we were to directly eat them. According to the World Resources Institute, it takes nine calories of feed to produce one calorie of chicken meat. And with so many crops being diverted to animal feed, it is also driving up the price of grains and legumes - furthering global poverty.

Water use: Animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products.The average water footprint per calorie for beef is 20x larger than for cereals and starchy roots. When we look at the water requirements for protein, it has been found that the water footprint per gram of protein for milk, eggs, and chicken is about 1.5x larger than for pulses. The Government of India’s think tank NITI Aayog has rung the alarm when it comes to water - citing that nearly 600 million Indians face high-to-extreme water stress or scarcity.

Public health: Across all three categories of smart protein (plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins) these foods do not require the use of antibiotics and eliminate the risk of zoonotic disease, making them far better for public health. This is particularly important for a country like India, where we’ve seen some of the worst impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. India is also badly hit by malnutrition and a large amount of our population is unable to access nutritious food. In fact, across all countries in the world, India has the largest population of children and mothers who face undernutrition. Our population is also set to expand rapidly, increasing the difficulty of accessing adequate food and nutrition. Globally, we’re going to have to feed 10 billion people by 2050, and one-sixth of this population will be Indian.


India is ranked 1st in milk production contributing 23% of global milk production, and has produced a record breaking 209 million tonnes in 2020-2021.To support this production, India currently has the world’s largest cattle and buffalo population. India’ s livestock population is 535.78 million accounting for over 37.28% of cattle, 21.23% of buffalo, 26.40% of goats and 12.17% of sheep across the global livestock population. It is not surprising that the livestock population has grown over 4.6% as compared to past years in India, and the count of its cattle rose by 18% in the last census (2012), a number that is expected to increase in the coming years.

India is not just leading in producing milk and milk products but is also home to one of the largest consumer bases.


With a livestock count of over half a billion, India is the world's third-largest emitter of methane. India’s methane emissions in 2016 were 409 million tonne CO2e of which, 73.96% was from Agriculture sector, 14.46% from Waste sector, 10.62% from Energy sector and 0.96% was from Industrial Processes and Product Use sector. Within the agriculture sector, livestock account for about 63% of all emissions through enteric fermentation, and 11.1% of the total GHG emissions from various sectors in the country.

The Indian Government has acknowledged that enteric fermentation is one of the two predominant sources of methane emissions in India. An average lactating cow or buffalo in India emits around 200 litres of methane per day, while it is 85-95 litres for young growing heifers and 20-25 litres for adult sheep. India is home to 535.78 million livestock, with ruminants emitting an estimated 9.25 million tonnes (Mt) to 14.2 Mt of methane annually, contributing to more than 15% of global enteric methane emissions.


Animal husbandry is not just a leading contributor to global warming but also has harmful and adverse impact on natural resources, biodiversity, health conditions of consumers and inhumane treatment of livestock.

Various efforts are being initiated at world level to make our eating and dietary lifestyle sustainable and healthy, with a rise in willingness of Indians to switch to plant based protein/smart proteins. A cross-country survey by GFI India examined consumer acceptance of smart protein and found that 63% of Indian consumers are very or extremely likely to purchase plant-based meat. This compared better than the results from consumer acceptance studied in the U.S. and China. Smart proteins are food products which can reliably and predictably substitute the consumption of animal-derived meat, eggs, and dairy, because they perfectly replicate the sensory and cultural experience for consumers, and drastically eliminate the GHG emissions.

Against this backdrop, we call upon our Future Climate Leaders to address these challenges and lead us on a way to a sustainable and healthy eating lifestyle!!!