When deforestation is reduced, Brazilian cattle ranching produces more meat per hectare and produced fewer greenhouse gases per kilogram of beef. Depending on the type of breeding, "handling," it is even possible to remove carbon from the air.
These conclusions come from the study "Calculation of the Carbon and Water Footprint in the Beef Chain in Brazil." Eduardo Pavão (agronomist), Roberto Strumpf (biologist), and Susian Martins (agronomist) completed the study. It is part of the Instituto Escolhas project "From Pasto to Prato: Subsidies and Environmental Footprint of Beef Bovine".
The work focused on the "carbon footprint" of the meat production process, from the production of inputs to transport to the market. The beef cattle production chain produces carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. To summarize the environmental impact, the effect of each gas is calculated in carbon gas equivalents.
From 2008 to 2017, the beef cattle herd went from 166.7 million head to 183.7 million head. The meat mass, the quantity of processed carcass, grew from 6.6 million tons to 7.7 million tons in the same period. The breeding area increased from 139 million hectares to 141 million hectares.
In other words, for an increase of about 10% in the herd and more than 16% in meat processing, an increase of less than 2% in the breeding area was necessary. Better still, there was a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases per kilogram of meat.
Although the environmental impact of management systems differs enormously, the notable increase in environmental efficiency (in carbon emissions) was due to the decrease in deforestation to produce meat.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon