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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Environmental Assessment of U.S. Beef Production Systems

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Project Number: 8070-11130-002-11-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jan 1, 2013
End Date: May 31, 2015

To determine farm gate environmental footprints of beef production systems in the U.S. and develop production information to support a full life cycle assessment. Specific plans for this period are to: • Gather cattle production information through producer surveys and visits in two regions of the U.S. (Northern Great Plains and Midwest). • Simulate representative operations to evaluate and document the environmental footprints of beef cattle produced in these regions. • Supply the feed and cattle production information required for a full chain life cycle assessment to BASF Corporation as needed.

In collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other beef producer organizations, a survey of the industry in these regions will be conducted to determine the characteristics of common production practices. Surveys will be conducted for ranches producing calves and stockers and feeding operations producing finished cattle. Visits will also be made for 10-15 ranch and finish operations in each region to gather further data and information on production practices. The survey and visit data will be summarized to document production characteristics throughout each region such as animal numbers, stocking rates, feed production and use, animal production, energy use and other major resource inputs. The survey and visit information, along with data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service and similar sources, will be used to set parameters in the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) for simulating representative cow-calf, stocker and finish operations of each region. Simulation of the representative operations will provide the cradle to farm gate partial life cycle carbon, energy, water and reactive nitrogen footprints for the cattle produced. Simulated data from individual operations will be combined through a weighted averaging procedure to obtain values for each full region. Appropriate information obtained through the surveys, visits, and simulations will be provided to collaborators at BSAF for their use in developing a full life cycle assessment of beef production, processing, and use for the U.S. In collaboration with BASF personnel, life cycle assessment results from previous phases of the project will be documented for publication. This life cycle includes feed and cattle production along with primary data from the packer, case ready, retail, and consumer segments of the beef value chain. An analysis, conducted using BASF’s socio-eco-efficiency tool (SEEBALANCE®), includes environmental, social, and economic considerations. The manuscript produced will report the preliminary environmental footprint and eco-efficiency portfolio for U.S. beef in 2011 and the improvement obtained since 2005.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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