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Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle
Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 960 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6, Canada
Private Consultant, Ottawa, ON, K2A 1G6, Canada
Centre Interuniversitaire de Recherche sur le Cycle de Vie des Produits, Procédés et Services (CIRAIG), 2500, Chemin Polytechnique, Montréal, QC, H3T 1J4, Canada
Private Consultant, Cambridge, ON, N3H 3Z9, Canada
Science and Technology Branch, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 51 Campus Drive, 5C74 Agriculture Building, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 5A8, Canada
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 November 2012; in revised form: 23 November 2012 / Accepted: 26 November 2012 / Published: 3 December 2012
Abstract: 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 live weight (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 and other products for rendering were 19.6, 12.3, 7 and 2 kg CO2e per kg of product, respectively.
Keywords: beef production; greenhouse gas; life cycle assessment; allocation
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Desjardins, R.L.; Worth, D.E.; Vergé, X.P.C.; Maxime, D.; Dyer, J.; Cerkowniak, D. Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle. Sustainability 2012, 4, 3279-3301.
Desjardins RL, Worth DE, Vergé XPC, Maxime D, Dyer J, Cerkowniak D. Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle. Sustainability. 2012; 4(12):3279-3301.
Desjardins, Raymond L.; Worth, Devon E.; Vergé, Xavier P.C.; Maxime, Dominique; Dyer, Jim; Cerkowniak, Darrel. 2012. "Carbon Footprint of Beef Cattle." Sustainability 4, no. 12: 3279-3301.