Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Beef

11 November 2019

The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union has published a standardised methodology to calculate and mitigate the environmental impacts of beef, pork and lamb. The guidelines have been designed to allow individual companies to identify “hotspots” of environmental impacts within their own supply chains.

4 July 2019

This special issue of the newsletter Forest Cover, produced by the Global Forest Coalition, focuses on large-scale cattle farming and its interactions both with other food production systems and with forests.

Image: Graham Robson, Slurry lagoon north of Bays Leap Farm, Geograph, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
17 June 2019

A joint investigation by the Guardian newspaper, Channel 4 News and the UK’s non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that halving ammonia emissions from farms in the UK could save thousands of lives each year. However, a loophole in regulations means that ammonia emissions from beef and dairy farms do not have to be monitored.

Image: NASA, Deforestation in the state of Rondônia in western Brazil, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
8 April 2019

Around 15% of the carbon dioxide emissions from food consumption in the European Union are due to deforestation, according to this paper, which traces the links between final consumers and the expansion of agriculture (including both crops and pasture) and tree plantations into tropical forests. Depending on the model used, 29% to 39% of tropical deforestation emissions were attributed to the production of goods for export.

Image: dany13, DSC00234/Brasil/Pantanal/ Cowboys Herding Zebu Cattle on Miranda, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
12 March 2019

This paper analyses how different agriculture and forestry activities affect biodiversity and carbon sequestration. In 2011, the top driver of losses to bird species richness was cattle production, while the greatest driver of losses to net carbon sequestration (relative to sequestration if natural vegetation were allowed to grow) was forestry.

Image: Max Pixel, Cows on pasture, CC0 Public Domain
26 February 2019

This paper, by researchers from the University of Oxford’s LEAP project, models the climate impacts of beef cattle and cultured meat over the next 1000 years using a climate model that treats carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide separately, instead of using the widespread Global Warming Potential, which assigns a CO2-equivalent value to each greenhouse gas according to warming caused over a specified timeframe.​

Image: Pxhere, farm barn food, CC0 Public Domain
11 February 2019

This life cycle assessment of beef cattle production in the United States calculates greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy use, blue water consumption and reactive nitrogen loss per kg of carcass weight.

Image: Pxhere, Cow milk cow, CC0 Public Domain
29 October 2018

A case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”, has been confirmed on a farm in Aberdeenshire. The case was discovered before entering the human food chain, and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has said that all necessary measures have been taken to protect consumers.

Image: glennhurowitz, Recently planted palm oil plantation on rainforest peatland, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
2 October 2018

27% of global deforestation since 2001 has been caused by permanent land use change for producing commodities (such as beef, soy and palm oil), according to a recent paper. The researchers used satellite imagery to assess 10 km by 10 km grid cells across the globe and categorised each cell by likely forest disturbance type: commodity production, shifting agriculture, managed forestry, wildfire, or urbanisation.

18 September 2018

In the latest of its Food Brexit Briefings, the Food Research Collaboration examines how UK food standards may be affected by post-Brexit trade deals - specifically, the case of hormone-treated beef, which is currently permitted in the United States but not in the European Union. The report points out that at least one of the hormones routinely used in US beef production is a cancer risk, and that there is not enough evidence to show that five other hormones are safe to use.

Image: Max Pixel, Cow eating farm, CC0 Public Domain
18 September 2018

If the US were to shift to entirely grass-finished beef (vs. grain-finished), then the US cattle population would have to increase by 30% relative to today, because grass-fed cattle gain weight more slowly than those fattened in feedlots. Furthermore, existing pastures would have to become 40%-370% more productive to avoid converting more natural habitat to farmland or competition with human food supply. Methane emissions from the cattle’s digestive systems might increase by 43%, again because of slower growth rates.

Image: Pixnio, Cows, grazing, cattle, Public Domain
12 September 2018

Writing in the Guardian, Isabella Tree of Knepp Castle Estate argues that vegan diets ignore the potential of wildlife-friendly livestock grazing methods. Tree claims that not using anti-worming agents or antibiotics allows cow dung to feed various soil organisms, contributing to soil restoration and wildlife diversity.

Image: William Warby, Cow in a field by the quad biking place in Devon, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
11 June 2018

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett is featured in this video by UK climate website Carbon Brief, which discusses how farmers could reduce the carbon footprint of beef production. Tara points out that production-side measures only go so far, and that consumption changes are needed as well.

Image: A C Moraes, Gado, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
30 April 2018

FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen of the University of Cambridge has surveyed six NGO initiatives that are promoting sustainable cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon by using intensified pasture production to avoid deforestation. He finds that high-productivity cattle ranching is possible, requiring investment of US$410–2180/ha with payback times of 2.5–8.5 years. However, several barriers exist, including knowledge transfer, financial support and transparency in cattle supply chains.

Image: Pete, The Cows…, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
19 March 2018

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh have sequenced the genomes of 913 types of microbes found inside cows’ digestive systems, hoping to discover more about the types of enzymes that the microbes use to break down the food.

Image: Andrew, New Laund Breakfast, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
6 March 2018

This study, undertaken by researchers at Michigan State University and the Union of Concerned Scientists, compares the net greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of two different beef finishing systems in the Upper Midwest, of the United States: a feedlot system; and a grazing system based on adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing principles.

Image: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
13 February 2018

This paper by researchers from the USA, UK and Mexico examines the biodiversity conservation and carbon storage implications of a number of land-use scenarios related to cattle ranching in Yucatán, Mexico.

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