Isaac Asante Aboagye, Gayathri Valappil, Baishali Dutta, Hugues Imbeault-Tétreault, Kim Ominski, Marcos Cordeiro, Roland Kröbel, Sarah Pogue, Tim A. McAllister

An Assessment of the Environmental Sustainability of Beef Production in Canada

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Animals

This study assessed the environmental impacts of beef cattle production and their effects on the overall sustainability of Canadian beef production. Cradle to farm gate, cradle to processor’s gate, and cradle to consumer plate life cycle assessments were carried out to quantify greenhouse gases (GHG), resource use (i.e., water, land, and fuel), and potential water and air pollution (i.e., freshwater eutrophication, terrestrial acidification and photochemical oxidants formation). Across the production chain, feed production had the greatest impact on most environmental indicators. The GHG intensity without dairy meat was estimated as 10.4 kg CO2-eq/kg live weight (LW), corresponding to 32.8 kg CO2-eq/kg consumed boneless beef. Including dairy meat reduced GHG intensity by 5.8% (0.6 kg CO2-eq/kg LW) compared to when it was excluded. Other environmental metrics per kg of LW were 657 L, 38.7 m2 annual crop-eq, 0.4 kg oil-eq, 2.6 kg P-eq, 115.9 kg SO2-eq, and 8.7 kg NOx-eq for water use, land use, fossil fuel use, freshwater eutrophication, terrestrial acidification, and photochemical oxidants, respectively. Data provide benchmarks for use in future regional and national assessments that are designed to encourage the adoption of sustainable management practices that can lower the environmental footprint of Canadian beef production.

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