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Title: A life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of beef in the united states

item Asem-Hiablie, Senorpe
item Rotz, Clarence - Al
item BATTAGLIESE, THOMAS - Basf Corporation North America
item STACKHOUSE-LAWSON, KIMBERLY - National Cattlemen'S Beef Association (NCBA)

Submitted to: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/30/2018
Publication Date: 5/30/2018
Citation: Asem-Hiablie, S., Rotz, C.A., Battagliese, T., Stackhouse-Lawson, K. 2018. A life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of beef in the united states. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 1-15.

Interpretive Summary: A nationwide life cycle assessment (LCA) of U.S. beef production and consumption is being conducted to establish baseline impact metrics and identify areas for improvement along the beef value chain. In this preliminary LCA, metrics for resource use, emissions, and occupational, animal and food safety risks were quantified using the BASF Eco-efficiency analysis tool. The cattle production segment of the value chain was developed from data and simulations of cattle production at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. For post-farm gate phases, primary operations data were obtained from harvesting and case-ready facilities, retailers, and restaurants while consumer data were obtained from literature and public databases. Feed and cattle production phases were found to be the largest contributors to most of the environmental impacts assessed. Eco-efficiency improvements are being made in cattle production through increased crop yields and more efficient use of resource inputs such as fertilizer and feed. Beneficial practices observed among processors include increased use of natural gas in lieu of fuel oil, biogas capture and use from wastewater lagoons at harvesting plants, packaging optimizations, and improvements in water use efficiency.

Technical Abstract: The need to assess the sustainability attributes of the United States beef industry is underscored by its importance to food security locally and globally. This preliminary life cycle assessment (LCA) of the U.S. beef value chain provides the structure and tools for a broader nationwide assessment that is underway. Impact metrics of the cradle-to-farm gate (feed production, cow-calf, and feedlot operations) and post-farm gate (harvest, case-ready, retail, restaurant and consumer) segments were evaluated. Pre-harvest (cradle-to-farm gate) data were obtained using the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) supported with production data from the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). Simulated data from USMARC were within 1% of reported values for feed production and use, energy use, and production costs in 2011. Primary data for the harvesting and case-ready phases were obtained from facilities that jointly processed nearly 60% of U.S. beef while retail and restaurant primary data represented 8% and 6%, respectively of each sector. Consumer data were obtained from public databases and literature. The functional unit or consumer benefit (CB) was 0.45 kg (1 lb) of consumed boneless edible beef. Applying the BASF eco-efficiency analysis methodology, value chain LCA results indicated that the feed and cattle production phases were the largest contributors to most environmental impact categories. Impact metrics included water emissions of 3,095 L diluted water-eq/CB, cumulative energy demand of 503 MJ/CB and land use of 21.5 m2a/CB. Air emissions were: acidification potential of 329 g SO2-eq/CB, photochemical ozone creation potential of 66.5 g C2H4-eq/CB), global warming potential of 22.0 kg CO2-eq/CB, and ozone depletion potential of 765 µg CFC11-eq/CB. Remaining metrics calculated for the beef value chain were: abiotic depletion potential of 4.7 mg Ag-eq/CB, consumptive water use of 1160 L-eq /CB and solid waste of 167 weighted g/CB. This LCA is the first of its kind for beef and has been third party verified in accordance with ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 and 14045:2012 standards. An expanded pre-harvest nationwide study of the beef industry is now being performed with region-specific data aimed at identifying region-level benchmarks and opportunities for further improvement in U.S. beef sustainability.