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Annu Rev Anim Biosci. 2013 Jan;1:469-89. doi: 10.1146/annurev-animal-031412-103727. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

The role of productivity in improving the environmental sustainability of ruminant production systems.

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Department of Animal Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164; email:


The global livestock industry is charged with providing sufficient animal source foods to supply the global population while improving the environmental sustainability of animal production. Improved productivity within dairy and beef systems has demonstrably reduced resource use and greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food over the past century through the dilution of maintenance effect. Further environmental mitigation effects have been gained through the current use of technologies and practices that enhance milk yield or growth in ruminants; however, the social acceptability of continued intensification and use of productivity-enhancing technologies is subject to debate. As the environmental impact of food production continues to be a significant issue for all stakeholders within the field, further research is needed to ensure that comparisons among foods are made based on both environmental impact and nutritive value to truly assess the sustainability of ruminant products.


animal source foods; beef; carbon footprint; dairy; dilution of maintenance; greenhouse gas emissions

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