Brazil advances in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) mitigation technologies in livestock farming. The alliance between public research companies and private enterprises has indicated innovations in management, vaccines, and feed that can contribute to reducing enteric methane (CH4) emissions, one of the main contributors to global warming resulting from the digestive process of animals.
Sérgio Medeiros, a researcher at Embrapa, explains that at least six fronts are being explored. They involve the use of additives and ingredients to enhance livestock performance or aid in digestion and emission reduction, production systems such as integrated crop-livestock-forest integration, research on vaccines, bio-inputs, and nitrogen fertilizers (which emit less nitrous oxide), and genetic research aimed at selecting animals that emit fewer greenhouse gases.
Genetic studies have shown promise in institutions such as Embrapa and the São Paulo Institute of Animal Science, and some commercial companies are testing vaccines using gene editing techniques. However, the most immediate results are being achieved through the monitoring of livestock farmers and forests, especially those in the Amazon region, and the use of new animal and pasture management methods.
Partnerships with major exporting meatpacking companies, under pressure from external buyers, have been important. Minerva Foods, which generates approximately 70% of its revenue of R$ 26.96 billion from exports, sought the partnership of the Institute of Forest and Agricultural Management and Certification (Imaflora) and Embrapa to assist livestock farmers in reducing their carbon footprint. The company implemented geospatial monitoring for direct supplier farms in Brazil and Paraguay, and by 2030, it has committed to monitoring all purchases in Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina. The company has set a goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035.
“The ESG agenda has entered investment fund analysis.”
— Fernando Sampaio
The project with Imaflora calculates the carbon balance in livestock farming on 25 farms across the country’s five biomes, which have over 232,000 head of cattle on approximately 185,000 hectares of pasture. The results show that well-managed pastures sequester carbon, while poorly managed pastures emit the gas. According to the final report, these farms emitted 44% fewer greenhouse gases than the global average for beef production emissions.
If results are already evident with the management of current pastures, research on transgenic forage crops, says Medeiros from Embrapa, can further enhance these gains. Developing grasses with fewer digestion-resistant components could boost carbon sequestration. By offering better digestibility and improving animal productivity, avenues for emissions reduction are opened.
JBS, which has also committed to achieving net-zero emissions, has made innovation its ally. After using satellites to identify illegal activities on supplier farms and suspending purchases from those areas, it adopted blockchain technology in a platform to track the entire animal supply chain. “It’s a step in addressing a major sector challenge: monitoring suppliers’ suppliers,” says Renato Costa, president of Friboi, a company within the JBS group. From 2026, only producers on the platform will be able to do business with the company.
The financial market closely follows the sector’s movements. “The ESG agenda has entered investment fund analysis,” emphasizes Fernando Sampaio, director of the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters (Abiec). This impacts both livestock and meatpacking projects. Providing access to green finance lines is important to incentivize livestock farmers to change their production systems and implement good practices, reinforces Edison Ticle, CFO of Minerva.
Translated from: BeefPoint.