SLU news

Climate impact of Brazilian beef revalued

Published: 21 March 2011

Increased export of Brazilian meat leads indirectly to deforestation in the Amazon. The export of meat causes much larger climate impact than what is currently stated, according to new research from Chalmers and SIK published in Environmental Science and Technology. The researchers are now demanding that indirect land use effects are included in determining a product's carbon footprint.

(Source: SIK - The Institute for Food and Biotechnology)

- If indirect land effects are not included, there is a risk that wrong signals will be brought to policy makers and consumers. It makes one simply guilty of underestimating the climatic effects Brazilian meat provides, says Sverker Molander, Assistant Professor of Environmental Systems and one of the researchers behind the article.

Carbon dioxide emissions associated with deforestation now accounts for ten percent of total emissions globally. An increasing demand for more feed, biofuel and food, especially meat, is creating a need for additional agricultural land leading to deforestation and even greater emissions.

- Basically the problem is that we eat more and more meat. For every new kilogram we eat it increases the risk of deforestation, says Christel Cederberg, another of the authors, workingd both at Chalmers and SIK.

The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has set a target to double exports of beef the next decade. Meanwhile, there also increasing world demand for biodiesel and ethanol made from soy and sugar cane in the south part of Brazil. This has caused land prices to rise. Many livestock producers sell their valuable pastures to soy and sugar cane growers to buy larger land in the country's north part.

- Until 2050, world meat consumption is supposed to increase by nearly 80 percent, which requires more pasture and increased soybean cultivation. Add to that an increased demand for land to produce bioenergy. Area efficiency can not only increase and increase. Whichever way you twist and turn on the projections, they lead to changes and increased land use, says Christel Cederberg.