Researchers from the United States and Australia have analyzed the trade-offs of sustainable beef production and developed a framework to guide the beef industry’s sustainability efforts. According to a study from Cornell and The University of Queensland, the beef sector can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85% without increasing costs while still meeting the global demand for meat. Such reductions can be achieved by opting for more efficient feeds and production areas and restoring forests in areas where production is inefficient. However, the most significant gains will require nations to collaborate much more closely.

According to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, “Acting independently, countries can still see significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of up to 70% by changing feed composition and relocating production to the most efficient areas within the countries. But reductions of up to 83% become possible through relocating production globally and using trade to distribute the more efficient beef.”

“We have mapped out the most efficient locations around the world to produce beef and the maps change when factors are altered, such as how much society values reducing emissions over reducing production costs,” added Adam C. Castonguay, a postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Queensland’s School of Veterinary Sciences and one of the authors of the study.

“This has given us an unprecedented insight into the ‘what, where, and why’ of beef production at a global level, and decisions about the future of the industry can be informed by inputting trade-offs and opportunities. The extent to which we reduce emissions and production costs depends on our values or preferences as a society.”