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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Time-dependent climate impact of beef production - can carbon sequestration in soil offset enteric methane emissions?

Hammar, Torun; Hansson, Per-Anders; Roos, Elin


The time-dependent climate impact of beef production, including changes in soil organic carbon, was examined in this study. A hypothetical suckler cow system located in south-east Sweden was analysed using a time dependent life cycle assessment method in which yearly fluxes of greenhouse gases were considered and the climate impact in terms of temperature response over time was calculated. The climate impact expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents, i.e. global warming potential in a 100-year time perspective, was also calculated. The Introductory Carbon Balance Model was used for modelling yearly soil organic carbon changes from land use. The results showed an average carbon sequestration rate of 0.2 Mg C ha(-1) and yr(-1), so carbon sequestration could potentially counteract 15-22% of emissions arising from beef production (enteric fermentation, feed production and manure management), depending on system boundaries and production intensity. The temperature response, which showed a high initial increase due to methane emissions from enteric fermentation, started to level off after around 50 years due to the short atmospheric lifetime of methane. However, sustained production and associated methane emissions would maintain the temperature response and contribute to climate damage. A forage-grain beef system resulted in a lower climate impact than a forage-only beef system (due to higher slaughter age), even though more carbon was sequestered in the forage-only system.


Life cycle assessment (LCA); Land use; Grazing; Introductory carbon balance model (ICBM); Carbon sequestration; Meat

Published in

Journal of Cleaner Production
2022, Volume: 331, article number: 129948