The future of livestock production and consumption in Europe was the primary focus of the RISE Foundation’s work over the course of 2018. The work on livestock was directed by Professor Allan Buckwell and developed by the RISE teamand Professor Erik Mathijs (KU Leuven, BE).

Listen to Allan Buckwell talking about livestock at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture in March 2018 below.


For hundreds of years, livestock production has been a central part of food system and society and a long-established part of the way we farm. It provides us with high quality protein and other essential nutrients. It is an essential part of the rural circular economy through its contribution to the nutrient cycle and its utilisation of crop residues and by-products of food processing. And it can help conserve important biodiversity and cultural landscapes and contribute to carbon sequestration through the extensive grazing of permanent pastures.

Yet it appears that the population- and income-driven growth in livestock consumption and the associated changes in scale, specialisation, concentration and thus density of livestock production are having serious consequences for the environment, GHG emissions, human health and over consumption of resources. This ultimately threatens global food security. There is mounting evidence that the negative consequences of livestock consumption and production are out-weighing the benefits and that the sector has reached an imbalance.

We perceive ever stronger calls to limit both production and consumption of livestock products. These pressures combined with the EU’s obligations to meet its international commitments on climate and the Sustainable Development Goals suggest that change is inevitable.

The report

To complete this piece of work, RISE drew upon data from a wide range of sources, including academia, government institutions and industry to build a picture of the benefits and impacts of the livestock sector and develop a framework to assess its sustainability. Specifically, the report expands on the concept of safe operating space for EU livestock; defining upper and lower boundaries and describing the options and policies available to guide such change while supporting the sector through the inevitable transition.

The full report and the executive summary are available for download.


Two stakeholder events took place during the course of the project.

  • On 26th March 2018, as part of the pre-Forum for the Future of Agriculture debate, the Foundation held a stakeholder consultation event for over 150 people in Brussels.

Consultation process

To ensure that the Foundation’s reports remain impartial and that the research team have as much access to information coming from a wide range of stakeholders, it has developed two mechanisms: 

The stakeholder consultation workshop: Mid way through the development of each report, the RISE Foundation holds a stakeholder workshop to which it invites farmers, NGOs, industry, policy makers and academics to discuss and debate and respond to its work. 

The Advisory Committee: the RISE Foundation has appointed a specialist Advisory Committee to guide the development of its thinking on livestock and ensure that its work remains impartial and balanced. Members of RISE Livestock Advisory Committee are as follows:

  • Professor Tim Benton, Dean of Strategic Research Initiatives, University of Leeds and Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Chatham House
  • Dr Alberto Bernués, Centro de Investigación y Tecnología Agroalimentaria de Aragón
  • Krijn Poppe, Research Manager, Wageningen Economic Reserch
  • Dr Henk Westhoek, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

This project was funded by the RISE Foundation’s own funds and received no financial support from any external donors.