Nutritional and environmental impacts of removing beef cattle from US agriculture
By: Anne Zinn
On Monday, July 9, Robin White, faculty member at Virginia Tech, began the ASAS-CSAS Beef Species Symposium by outlining research concerning the contributions of beef products to U.S. agricultural in terms of human edible nutrient supply and greenhouse gas emissions. White explained that press materials, government documents, and peer-reviewed papers often focus on reducing and/or completely eliminating beef production as a way to minimize environmental impacts on human diets. Therefore, the objective of White’s research was to quantity the contributions of beef products to U.S. agriculture and examine the nutritional and environmental impacts removing beef cattle from U.S. agriculture would have. Data on U.S. beef production were obtained from the analysis conducted by White & Hall (2017), which utilized data from various U.S. databases and other peer-reviewed sources to estimate nutritional and greenhouse gas contributions of livestock in U.S. agriculture. Then, beef emissions were separated from the full report to assess contributions of beef to nurturing supplies and greenhouse gas emissions. Results of the study show the U.S. beef industry provides sufficient product to meet the protein, vitamin B12, long-chain omega-3 and -6 fatty acid requirements of 43, 137, 47, and 487 million people, respectively, and that beef production was estimated to account for 56% of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. from U.S. animal agriculture and 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from all of U.S. agriculture. White concluded her presentation by explaining that future work should focus on quantifying the environmental impacts of beef cattle production in the context of optimizing the quantity of human-edible material that can be produced from a set land area. White & Hall’s full paper can be viewed here.
The full-day Beef Species Symposium at the ASAS-CSAS Animal Meeting was made possible by Cactus Feeders, a production company that aims to produce more food with reduced impute.