A model for 'sustainable' US beef production

Gidon Eshel, Alon Shepon, Taga Shaket, Brett D. Cotler, Stav Gilutz, Daniel Giddings, Maureen E. Raymo, Ron Milo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Food production dominates land, water and fertilizer use and is a greenhouse gas source. In the United States, beef production is the main agricultural resource user overall, as well as per kcal or g of protein. Here, we offer a possible, non-unique, definition of 'sustainable' beef as that subsisting exclusively on grass and by-products, and quantify its expected US production as a function of pastureland use. Assuming today's pastureland characteristics, all of the pastureland that US beef currently use can sustainably deliver ≈45% of current production. Rewilding this pastureland's less productive half (≈135 million ha) can still deliver ≈43% of current beef production. In all considered scenarios, the ≈32 million ha of high-quality cropland that beef currently use are reallocated for plant-based food production. These plant items deliver 2- to 20-fold more calories and protein than the replaced beef and increase the delivery of protective nutrients, but deliver no B12. Increased deployment of rapid rotational grazing or grassland multi-purposing may increase beef production capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-85
Number of pages5
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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