A study published in this month’s Journal of Animal Science found that raising a pound of beef in the U.S. today uses significantly fewer natural resources, including land, water, feed and fuel than in the past. “The Environmental Impact of Beef Production in the U.S.: 1977 compared with 2007” (Journal of Animal Science, Dec. 18, 2011) by Jude Capper, Ph.D., Washington State University, documents that each pound of beef raised in 2007 used 33% less land, 12% less water, 19% less feed and 9% less fossil fuel energy than equivalent beef production in 1977. Waste outputs were similarly reduced, shrinking the carbon footprint of beef by 16.3% in 30 years.
According to Capper’s research, improvements in the way cattle are raised and fed in the U.S. between 1977 and 2007 yielded 13% more total beef from 30% fewer animals. Raising more beef from fewer animals maximizes natural resources while providing essential nutrients for the human diet. Focusing resources to provide more nutrient-rich foods like beef is a critical success factor in meeting nutrition needs at home and abroad.
This project was supported by the beef checkoff program through a research grant from state beef councils in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Washington.