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Data from: Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States

posted on 2024-02-13, 13:56 authored by C. Alan Rotz, Senorpe Asem-Hiablie, Sara Place, Greg Thoma

The environmental impacts of beef cattle production and their effects on the overall sustainability of beef have become a national and international concern. Our objective was to quantify important environmental impacts of beef cattle production in the United States. Surveys and visits of farms, ranches and feedlots were conducted throughout seven regions (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Northwest and Southwest) to determine common practices and characteristics of cattle production. These data along with other information sources were used to create about 150 representative production systems throughout the country, which were simulated with the Integrated Farm System Model using local soil and climate data. The simulations quantified the performance and environmental impacts of beef cattle production systems for each region. A farm-gate life cycle assessment was used to quantify resource use and emissions for all production systems including traditional beef breeds and cull animals from the dairy industry. Regional and national totals were determined as the sum of the production system outputs multiplied by the number of cattle represented by each simulated system. The average annual greenhouse gas and reactive N emissions associated with beef cattle production over the past five years were determined to be 243 ± 26 Tg carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) and 1760 ± 136 Gg N, respectively. Total fossil energy use was found to be 569 ± 53 PJ and blue water consumption was 23.2 ± 3.5 TL. Environmental intensities expressed per kg of carcass weight produced were 21.3 ± 2.3 kg CO2e, 155 ± 12 g N, 50.0 ± 4.7 MJ, and 2034 ± 309 L, respectively. These farm-gate values are being combined with post farm-gate sources of packing, processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste handling to produce a full life cycle assessment of U.S. beef. This study is the most detailed, yet comprehensive, study conducted to date to provide baseline measures for the sustainability of U.S. beef.

Resources in this dataset:

  • Resource Title: Appendix A. Supplementary Data - Tables S1 to S8 (docx).

    File Name: Web Page, url:

    Direct download, docx. Table S1. Important characteristics of farms and ranches simulated throughout seven regions of the U.S. Table S2. Important characteristics of representative finishing facilities simulated in seven regions of the U.S. Table S3. Important characteristics of dairy farms simulated throughout seven regions of the U.S. Table S4. Summary of 25 years of weather data (daily solar radiation, daily mean temperature, annual precipitation and daily wind speed)1 used to simulate beef cattle operations in each area of the eastern regions. Table S5. Soil characteristics used for locations simulated across the U.S. Table S6. Cattle numbers by state and region as obtained or estimated from NASS (2017). Table S7. Cattle numbers by state and region divided between traditional beef and dairy breeds as obtained or estimated from NASS (2017). Table S8. Important resource inputs and emissions from representative cow-calf, stocker / background and feedlot operations expressed per unit of final carcass weight (CW) produced.




Data contact name

Alan Rotz, C.

Data contact email


Agricultural Systems


  • Not specified

Geographic location - description

United States; Northeast region; Southeast region; Midwest region; Northern Plains; Southern Plains; Northwest region; Southwest region

ISO Topic Category

  • climatologyMeteorologyAtmosphere
  • economy
  • environment
  • farming
  • inlandWaters
  • transportation

Ag Data Commons Group

  • Life Cycle Assessment

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

environmental impact; beef; United States; beef industry; life cycle assessment; supply chain; cradle-to-gate; feedlots; cattle production; models; databases; eco-efficiency; emissions; energy; land use; air; acidification; sulfur dioxide; photochemistry; carbon dioxide; ozone depletion; water utilization; solid wastes; carbon footprint; nitrogen; meat production; meat packing plants; ammonia; methane; nitrous oxide; raw materials; regional surveys; farms; ranching; carbon; carcass weight; fossil fuels; information sources; production technology; soil; meteorological data; cattle breeds; dairy industry; greenhouse gases; wastes

Primary article PubAg Handle

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Alan Rotz, C.; Asem-Hiablie, Senorpe; Place, Sara; Thoma, Greg (2020). Data from: Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States. Agricultural Systems.