A lifecycle analysis (LCA) by an Agricultural Research Service-led team sheds new light on the sustainability of U.S. beef, concluding that it is “not a significant contributor to long-term global warming.”
Spanning five years, seven cattle-producing regions and using data from more than 2,200 survey responses and site visits, the LCA quantifies the resource use and emissions of beef cattle production in the United States. It measures inputs ranging from feed to fuel as well as gases emitted from, for example, the animals’ urine and manure, in order to provide an accurate baseline that the industry can use to reduce its environmental footprint.
According to the analysis, cattle production in the regions studied accounted for just 3.3 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while fossil energy use accounted for less than 1 percent of the national total.
Potential areas for improvement, however, include water use and reactive nitrogen losses, mainly in the form of ammonia.
The next phase of the analysis will measure other aspects of the beef supply chain, such as processing, packing and waste handling, to give an even more complete picture.
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