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Meat Sci. 2012 Nov;92(3):179-81. doi: 10.1016/j.meatsci.2012.04.013. Epub 2012 Apr 13.

Beef production in balance: considerations for life cycle analyses.

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Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, United States.


Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) are useful tools to analyze a product's "carbon footprint" (e.g., the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions expressed as standardized carbon dioxide equivalents per unit of product) considering all phases of the production chain. For beef, an LCA would include the GHG emissions from feed production, from the enteric fermentation of the cattle, from the cattle's waste, and from processing and transportation. Identifying the scope and scale of the LCA is critical and key to preventing inappropriate applications of the analysis (e.g., applying a global LCA for beef to the regional or national scale). Ideally, a LCA can integrate the complex biogeochemical processes responsible for GHG emissions and the disparate animal and agricultural management techniques used be different phases of the beef production chain (e.g., feedlot vs. cow-calf) and different production systems (e.g., conventional vs. organic).

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