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Environmental impacts of beef cattle production in the U.S.

published: May 6th 2019
source: Beef Browsing


A study was conducted of farms, ranches, and feedlots in the seven regions throughout the U. S. to determine practices and characteristics of cattle production. The purpose was to establish benchmarks of environmental impacts and to quantify resource use and emissions for all production systems, including traditional beef breeds and cull dairy animals. Some conclusions were:

– beef cattle production produced 3.3% of all U. S. greenhouse gas emissions;

– fossil energy used (in fuel, etc.) accounted for less than 1% of national total;

– because the majority of diets in the total beef production cycle comes from grass and other forages, grain consumption to produce beef is only 2.6 lb grain per lb beef, comparable to pork and poultry;

– operations in the Northwest and Southern Plains used more water, due to irrigation to produce feed.

Studies are in progress to assess energy use and emissions from downstream functions such as packing, processing, distribution, marketing, consumption, and waste handling.

(Agr. Systems 169:1; USDA, NCBA, Univ. of Arkansas)

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