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Nine environmental benefits of grain fed beef that might surprise you

Today’s consumers like to know how the food they’re eating impacts the environment, where it came from, and how it was grown. It might surprise you to know, contrary to popular belief, growing grain fed beef has the environment, safety, quality and transparency at the very core of its practices.

With around 380 accredited feedlots in Australia feeding an average of 1.1 million head of cattle at any one time, the environmental impact and sustainability of grain-fed beef is of vital importance to Australian grain fed beef producers, wholesalers and the industry alike.

Australian beef producers understand that protecting and improving the natural environment is vital to the long-term sustainability of their business and the world we live in. Read on to explore some environmental and sustainability benefits of grain fed beef that you may not know about.

1. Lower greenhouse gases

What cattle eat at a feedlot

Feedlot emissions account for 3.3% of total agricultural emissions.

The broader Australian red meat industry has been working hard to do its bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So hard that the Australian red meat industry has more than halved (53% reduction) its greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. In fact, the red meat industry’s proportion of national GHG emissions has also reduced from 21% in 2005 to 12% in 2018. We’re proud to be a part of an Industry that has substantially contributed to the reduction of emissions relative to other sectors of the economy.

Cattle on grain-based diets at feedlots reach their ideal weights more quickly than they would grazing on grass only. The shorter time on grass by grain fed beef cattle results in a measurable reduction in carbon emissions. For instance, grain fed cattle require half the amount of land to meet the same requirements.

Read more on lot feeders driving change in sustainable outcomes in emissions reduction

2. Minimising methane

The feedlot industry proactively researches and adopts environmentally sustainable approaches to grain fed beef production.

Cutting edge research has found that feeding grain fed cattle a small amount of red seaweed called Asparagopsis has been proven to lower methane emissions by over 80% while use of the feed additive Bovaer®  was found to reduce methane production by up to a staggering 90%.

Read more about lower methane beef

3. What about climate change?

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According to CSIRO, the Australian red meat industry’s contribution to temperature rise in line with Australia’s commitment under the Paris Agreement does not require reducing livestock numbers or even achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions[1].

In fact, Australia’s red meat industry has capacity for future productivity growth while meeting global temperature targets.

[1] Ridoutt, B., 2021. Short communication: climate impact of Australian livestock production assessed using the GWP* climate metric. 

Did you know?

On average, Australian grain fed cattle spend just 10-15% of their lifespan in feedlots. At any one time around 4% of Australian cattle herds are being fed in feedlots.

4. Low Land Use

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Grazing, dryland and irrigated agriculture accounts for nearly 59 per cent of Australia’s primary production land. Even with expansive space, one of the biggest hurdles for Australian beef production is the availability of adequate grass. Our dry seasons, which can sometimes turn into prolonged drought, put added pressure on the environment, and the agricultural industry, when dry seasons lead to overgrazing.  Grain feeding cattle naturally eliminates this pressure, because it requires a lot less land to feed cattle and are not reliant on grasses, allowing for improved re-growth and sustainability of our land and grasses.

5. Fed with local grain

Feeding out at the Feedlot

Australia is a self-sufficient grain producer.

So the wheat, barley and sorghum that are the principal grains mixed with alfalfa and other forage crops to produce the perfect feedlot ration are locally grown, not shipped in from overseas.

Did you know?

Grains fed to Australian grain-fed cattle bring out the naturally rich, tender flavors of Australian grain fed beef, desired by high end restaurants.

6. By-products repurposed

Cotton Seed Feed

Food that would have otherwise been wasted is repurposed for grain fed cattle as feedlots utilise and economise by-products of lower-grade human food production. 

Did you know?

Consuming grain is a nutritious and natural option for cattle, with a diet consisting of a diverse mix of such things as grain, silage, hay, molasses, oil seed meals and legumes. All of these ingredients contribute to energy, protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins for cattle growth and development.

7. Methane mitigated

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To curb the emissions produced by manure in feedlots, a holistic approach has been adopted across the industry as it is collected, composted and used as a valuable soil conditioner.

Manure has the nutrients and organic matter for improving soil structure and feedlots will generally recycle manure to either use themselves or sell as fertiliser.  Additionally, runoff is collected and often used to irrigate crops.

8. Traceability and quality

The Australian traceability system requires each head of cattle to be tagged with a National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) electronic tag containing the Property Identification Code.

This “whole of life” electronic tag, utilising radio frequency technology, enables quick and easy access to individual animal transactions, which are recorded and transmitted to a central database. So we know where your beef started and finished when you buy it.

9. Supply meets demand

AGFB-quality-beef

Supplying over 100 markets globally, Australia is one of the world’s largest beef exporters. Environmental stewardship, quality management and supply chain integrity are essential to the industry’s future, with quality assurance underpinned by Australia’s first QA program, the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme.

Farmers utilise the best available beef genetics. Through decades of cattle farming experience, producers have selected the finest genetic attributes. Those consumer-driven genetic traits are combined with professional quality management to ensure consistency of quality. The quality is high, so demand is always met here and overseas.

The Australian livestock and meat industry is committed to food safety, integrity and traceability.

All sectors of the Australian beef industry, from the farm through to transport, saleyards and processing plants, implement integrity and traceability systems and operate under independently audited Quality Assurance (QA) programs, which are developed in partnership with the Australian industry and government.

Grain fed beef consumers can rest assured that Australian produced beef is not only the best in the world but is produced in an industry that is constantly working towards improvements in every aspect of production, environment, sustainability and of course eating quality.

Read on...

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