Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle.

Desjardins, R.L., Worth, D.E., Vergé, X.P.C., Maxime, D., Dyer, J.A., and Cerkowniak, D.D. (2012). "Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle.", Sustainability, 4(12), pp. 3279-3301. doi : 10.3390/su4123279  Access to full text


The carbon footprint of beef cattle is presented for Canada, The United States, The European Union, Australia and Brazil. The values ranged between 8 and 22 kg CO2e per kg of LW depending on the type of farming system, the location, the year, the type of management practices, the allocation, as well as the boundaries of the study. Substantial reductions have been observed for most of these countries in the last thirty years. For instance, in Canada the mean carbon footprint of beef cattle at the exit gate of the farm decreased from 18.2 kg CO2e per kg LW in 1981 to 9.5 kg CO2e per kg LW in 2006 mainly because of improved genetics, better diets, and more sustainable land management practices. Cattle production results in products other than meat, such as hides, offal and products for rendering plants, hence the environmental burden must be distributed between these useful products. In order to do this, the cattle carbon footprint needs to be reported in kg of CO2e per kg of product. For example, in Canada in 2006, on a mass basis, the carbon footprint of cattle by-products at the exit gate of the slaughterhouse was 12.9 kg CO2e per kg of product. Based on an economic allocation, the carbon footprints of meat (primal cuts), hide, offal and fat, bones & other products for rendering were 19.6, 12.3, 7 and 2 kg CO2e per kg of product, respectively.

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