Impacts of graving vs permed beef
Beef makes a substantial contribution to food security, providing protein, energy, and also essential micro-nutrients to human populations. Rumination allows cattle – and other ruminant species – to digest fibrous feeds that cannot be directly consumed by humans and thus make a net positive contribution to food balances. This contribution is of particular importance in marginal areas, where ago-ecological conditions and weak infrastructures do not offer many alternatives. It is also valuable where cattle convert crop residues and by-products into edible products and where they contribute to soil fertility through their impact on nutrients and organic matter cycles. At the same time, environmental sustainability issues are acute. They chiefly relate to the low efficiency of beef cattle in converting natural resources into edible products. Water use, land use, biomass appropriation, and greenhouse gas emissions are for example typically higher per unit of edible product in beef systems than in any other livestock systems, even when corrected for nutritional quality. This particularly causes environmental pressure when production systems are specialized towards the delivery of edible products, in large volumes. The paper discusses environmental challenges at the global level, recognizing the large diversity of systems. Beef production is faced with a range of additional sustainability challenges, such as changing consumer perceptions, resilience to climate change, animal health, and inequities in access to land and water resources. Entry points for environmental sustainability improvement are discussed within this broader development context.
for more updates contact:-Pritish Kumar Halder
Not all farming practices are equally sustainable. A farm’s size, methods, and geographical location – as well as the amount of processing, packaging, and transport that its products undergo throughout their lifecycle – all contribute to the farm’s environmental impact. To give you an idea of scale, farms range in size from around 0.5 hectares in Uganda to 3000 hectares in Australia; and the use of mineral fertilizer ranges from 1kg of nitrogen per hectare in Uganda to 300kg in China.1
Taking these different factors into account, researchers were able to distinguish between “high-impact” and “low-impact” meat producers by quantifying different aspects of environmental damage – such as the amount of land or freshwater used, the level of greenhouse gases emissions, or a farm’s contribution to acidification and eutrophication of rivers.
THE DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF BEEF PRODUCTION
When it comes to the beef industry, high-impact beef producers vastly differ from their low-impact counterparts:1
- They release 12 times as much CO2 as low-impact producers;
- They use up to 50 times more land than low-impact farms.
These staggering differences explain why only 25% of beef farms contribute over half of all beef-related environmental damage.
WHAT IF ALL BEEF FARMS BECAME LOW-IMPACT?
Unfortunately, even meat produced by the most environmentally friendly farms has a greater environmental impact than the very environmentally “worst” vegetables. A concrete example: a low-impact liter of cow’s milk uses almost twice as much land and creates almost double the emissions than the average liter of soy “milk”.1
EATING LESS MEAT COMPARED TO A PLANT-BASED DIET
Products from the meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy industries already use around 83% of the world’s farmland and contribute more than half of food’s emissions – so it’s no surprise that this study confirmed that a plant-based diet remains the most sustainable choice. If we all went plant-based, we’d halve CO2 emissions, acidification, and eutrophication associated with our diets, and reduce the amount of land used to grow our food by 76% globally. In the US, where people eat three times more meat than the global average, going fully plant-based would help reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 73%. 1
However, there is good news for those who want to be more sustainable but can’t or don’t want to remove all animal products from their plates. The study found that if we halved our consumption of animal products and only bought them from low-impact producers, it would be 70% as effective as going vegan!
THE NEED FOR NEW SUSTAINABILITY LABELS ON FOOD PACKAGING
Sadly, most of us still have no idea of how to distinguish a high-impact producer from a low-impact producer in a supermarket. One solution might be the introduction of packaging labels, which could help identify the environmental impact of each specific producer (for example, a green sticker for low-impact, a yellow sticker for medium-impact, and a red one for high-impact) and therefore help us all make more informed decisions about what we buy.
Sustainability labels could also encourage farmers to monitor and communicate their efforts to reduce their impacts on suppliers and customers, and for suppliers to source their products from more sustainable producers. In other words, more transparent information about where our food comes from could truly help us make greener choices, without having to make radical changes to our diets and lifestyles. For more information read Pritish Halder’s article.
GOVERNMENTS MUST STEP UP TOO
However, the study highlighted that consumers’ intentions alone can’t make a difference unless they are supported by policies around transparency and financial incentives that support more sustainable consumption. The burden of responsibility cannot fully fall on our shoulders – it’s time for our governments to use the technology and knowledge they have available to ensure sustainable choices are easier for us to make. Will the EU’s Green Deal be the answer we’re looking for? We’ll have to wait and see.
Environmental Advantages of Beef Production
Cattle grazing plays an integral role in the overall health of North America’s Northern Great Plains (NGP) ecosystem. Spanning over 180 million acres, including five U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, the most biodiverse regions of the NGP are home to one-fifth of the United States’ beef cows, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WFF).
Because cattle ranchers occupy some of the most diverse regions of the NGP, these regions must be protected from overgrazing to ensure the wildlife and environment can exist alongside the cattle. According to the WWF, when managed appropriately, grazing helps maintain the overall health of the grasslands by improving soil quality and preserving open space for the grasslands’ diverse wildlife.
Disadvantages of Beef Production
One of the largest disadvantages of beef production is its impact on the environment. According to a team at the Nature Conservancy, the beef industry in the United States spans over 775 million acres of grasslands, rangelands, and pastures on which the cattle graze.
However, the beef industry does not operate alone. Corn is used in cattle feed, which is grown on 30 million acres of farmland. Together, these two industries, consisting of roughly 2.6 million farmers and ranchers, take up 40 percent of the lands in the United States. With a significant portion of the United States’ land used for cattle ranching and beef production, an unsustainable beef system has a powerful impact by contributing to climate change.