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Title: Evaluation of the environmental impacts associated with variation in U.S. cattle production systems

item PUTMAN, BEN - University Of Arkansas
item THOMA, GREG - University Of Arkansas
item Rotz, Clarence - Al

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/15/2018
Publication Date: 10/17/2018
Citation: Putman, B., Thoma, G., Rotz, C.A. 2018. Evaluation of the environmental impacts associated with variation in U.S. cattle production systems. The 11th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand Meeting Proceedings. P. 1.

Interpretive Summary: No interpretive summary is required for this Abstract. JLB.

Technical Abstract: Work is underway to produce a cradle-to-grave national sustainability benchmark assessment of the U.S. Beef Industry. This cradle-to-farm gate portion of the assessment includes three of seven cattle producing regions in the U.S.: The Southern Plains, Northern Plains, and Midwest. Data from a comprehensive survey of cattle producers was combined with information from other publicly available sources to set parameters in the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) for simulating representative cow-calf, stocker and finishing operations in the three regions. The IFSM simulations informed the construction of multiple lifecycle inventory models, which represent archetypal cattle operations from each of the three regions. In total, 50 archetypal ranches and 19 finishing operations were simulated. These operations were then aggregated to represent, as accurately as possible with the available data, regional demographics of the different management systems. Environmental impact contributions from these three regions of the U.S. beef supply chain included finished cattle and culled cows and bulls from dairy and beef breeds. OpenLCA was used to do the life cycle assessment and Recipe 2016 Midpoint (H) was the impact assessment method. The cattle process impacts included emissions from the cattle as well as the fuel and energy requirements specific to maintaining cattle, such as the fuel consumed by farm trucks. Pasture and other feed production processes encompass all the fertilizers and fuels, and associated emissions, specific to the production of each crop. If manure from finishing is collected and spread onto a crop such as corn silage, then emissions from that manure after application to the crop are attributed to the crop. A dramatic difference in greenhouse gas emissions from pasture between the production systems was primarily due to differences in fertilizer use. When nitrogen fertilizer was not used, the reduction in nitrous oxide emissions significantly lowered the global warming potential per kg live weight produced from those operations, and in general, contributed to lower impacts across the suite of categories addressed in this assessment. Variations in production practices such as this provide insight into ways to reduce the environmental impacts of the U.S. beef production supply chain. Results from all seven regions will serve as the national benchmark and will provide an opportunity to evaluate the sector’s performance over time, but will also identify activities for enhancing resilience of production systems by identifying activities which offer the greatest opportunity for future improvement.