Xavier Remongin / agriculture.gouv.fr

Led by the Institute of Animal Husbandry (a private institute of applied research for the livestock sector), Life Beef Carbon is a European research project being carried out in four countries, France, Ireland, Spain and Italy. Its goal? Reducing the carbon footprint of beef meat production by 15% in ten years. Feedback indicates that the farms with the lowest carbon footprint are those that do the best economically.

The Life Beef Carbon project allowed to outline all the carbon emitting sources in animal farming. Two thousands farms, of which 1,700 were in France, participated in the project, with 200 operators. Each farm carried out a CAP2ER (a tool developed by the Institute of Animal Husbandry to evaluate the environmental impact of the farm and each of its herds) diagnostic test to identify concrete tools for reducing carbon emissions, stretching from herd management to crop systems to waste management.

The more animals there are, the more methane is produced. It is thus necessary to have the lowest possible number of unproductive animals, meaning animals ready for consumption, but that are still living on the farm. Different solutions allow to reduce the carbon footprint of a farm, like optimizing arrivals (births) and the departure (slaughter) of animals.

Another solution is to rethink the crop system, for example feeding the cattle with prairie grass means that the food is produced on site, reducing the pollution emitted in manufacturing and transporting food to the farm. Finally, recycling animal waste avoids the need to purchase fertilizers.

125 farms have put in place these solutions to test the technical and economic feasibility of these findings. At the end of these tests, technical files will be made available on the website of the Institute of Animal Husbandry for farmers, technical advisors and actors in agricultural education so that everyone may integrate this low-carbon approach at their level, all across the industry.