Life cycle assessment of pasture-based suckler steer weanling-to-beef production systems: Effect of breed and slaughter age
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CitationJ. Herron, T.P. Curran, A.P. Moloney, M. McGee, E.G. O'Riordan, D. O'Brien, Life cycle assessment of pasture-based suckler steer weanling-to-beef production systems: Effect of breed and slaughter age, Animal, Volume 15, Issue 7, 2021, 100247, ISSN 1751-7311, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2021.100247.
AbstractDemand for beef produced from pasture-based diets is rising as it is perceived to be healthier, animal friendly and good for the environment. Animals reared on a solely grass forage diet, however, have a lower growth rate than cereal-fed animals and consequently are slaughtered at an older age. This study focused on the former by conducting life cycle assessments of beef production systems offering only fresh or conserved grass, and comparing them to a conventional pasture-based beef production system offering concentrate feeding during housing. The four suckler weanling-to-beef production systems simulated were: (i) Steers produced to slaughter entirely on a grass forage diet at 20 months (GO-20); (ii) Steers produced to slaughter entirely on a grass forage diet at 24 months (GO-24); (iii) Steers produced to slaughter on a grass forage diet with concentrate supplementation during housing (GC-24), and (iv) Steers produced to slaughter entirely on a grass forage diet at 28 months (GO-28). Two breed types were evaluated: early-maturing and late-maturing (LM). The environmental impacts assessed were global warming potential (GWP), non-renewable energy (NRE), acidification potential (AP), eutrophication potential (marine (MEP) and freshwater) were expressed per animal, per kg live weight gain (LWG), kg carcass weight gain, and kg meat weight gain (MWG). The GO-20 production system had the lowest environmental impact across all categories and functional units for both breeds. Extending age at slaughter increased environmental impact across all categories per animal. The LWG response of EM steers to concentrate feed supplementation in GC-24 was greater than the increase in total environmental impact resulting in GC-24 having a lower environmental impact across categories per kg product than GO-24. Concentrate feed supplementation had a similar effect on LM steers with the exception of NRE and AP. The increase in daily LWG in the third grazing season in comparison to the second grazing and housing resulted in GO-28 having lower GWP, NRE, AP, and MEP per kg product than GO-24. Early-maturing steers had lower environmental impact than LM when expressed per kg LWG. However the opposite occurred when impacts were expressed per kg MWG, despite LM steers producing the least LWG. The LM steers compensated for poor LWG performance by having superior carcass traits, which caused the breed to have the lowest environmental impact per kg MWG. The results reaffirms the importance of functional unit and suggests reducing the environmental impact of LWG does not always translate into improvements in the environmental performance of meat.
FunderEuropean Union LIFE programme for the environment and climate action
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Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.