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Beef supply chain emissions can be reduced by more than 30% by 2030

Article-Beef supply chain emissions can be reduced by more than 30% by 2030

branex/iStock/Thinkstock beef cattle in pasture
New and emerging technologies and management practices all offer significant opportunities.

Beef supply chain contributions to global GHG emissions need to go down, and they can. Rabobank anticipates the market will be the most effective driver of GHG emissions reduction and believes that beef supply chain emissions can be reduced by more than 30% by 2030 in major markets. But in order to unlock the opportunities, leadership is needed.

All sectors and supply chains need to reduce emissions, and the beef supply chain is no exception. Beef supply chains account for about 6% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, of which about half are accounted for by the beef production stage of the supply chain.

New and emerging technologies and management practices – covering feed production, cattle breeding, cattle feeding, and soil and pasture management – all offer significant opportunities to reduce emissions. But that is not the only resource, global beef supply chain emissions can also be reduced significantly by transferring best practices from the most efficient beef supply chains to less efficient ones.

The main driver will be the market

According to Rabobank, food and agribusiness (F&A) company commitments to lower the supply chain GHG emissions of beef and other animal proteins are on the rise.

“We believe that in most regions, these initiatives are likely to be more effective drivers of action to lower GHG emissions in beef supply chains than government regulations,” said Eva Gocsik, analyst of Animal Protein for Rabobank.

The voluntary goals set by F&A companies offer greater flexibility and clearer recognition for reducing emissions, and systems are being established to increase the credibility of these actions. In contrast, regulatory approaches often encounter measurement and reporting problems.

“To remain the driving force, market-based approaches will need to demonstrate progress, otherwise, they will be replaced by regulation,” explained Gocsik.

Significant reduction in emissions possible

Rabobank sees scope to reduce GHG emissions by more than 30% by 2030 in Europe, North America, Brazil, Argentina, and Oceania. This would amount to a reduction of beef supply chain emissions by at least 0.6gt CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) by 2030. The highest reductions are expected in the upstream feed production and cattle production stages of the chain.

“If action can be accelerated through technology developments or clearer incentives, we believe emissions could be reduced by about 40% by 2030 in these major markets,” said Gocsik. “We think that actions to reduce emissions in major markets will also have spillover benefits in other beef markets, leading to reductions of about 5%.”

Leadership is needed to unlock opportunities

The misalignment of benefits and costs along beef supply chains is holding back progress in emissions reduction. But according to Rabobank, leadership at F&A companies active in beef supply chains has the ability to unlock latent opportunities. To do so, F&A companies need to set ambitious goals to reduce emissions, promote innovation, and enable supply chain partners to work together to achieve their goals.

“There is also a need for explicit recognition and reward for emissions reduction. This should not be seen solely in terms of higher prices – other benefits of reducing emissions will include productivity gains, improved risk management, access to new markets, and enhanced brand and reputation,” said Gocsik.

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