The most climate-friendly methods of beef production may not be enough to reduce the environmental effects of raising cattle.
Raymond Pierrehumbert at the University of Oxford, UK, and Gidon Eshel at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson in New York modelled the warming effects of five different ways of producing beef, including intensive feedlot systems (pictured) and pasture-based methods. Their analysis was based on the known amounts of greenhouse gases produced by each method.
They found that certain forms of pastured beef production have a smaller climate footprint than feedlot systems. However, because the global population and its appetite for beef will only grow, the footprint of these methods is still sizeable enough that even the most efficient systems will probably not help climate warming to stay below 2 °C.
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Beef farming brings on warming. Nature 524, 269 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/524269d