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Eutrophication and climate change impacts of a case study on New Zealand beef to the European market

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 20:27 authored by Sandra Payen, Shelley FalconerShelley Falconer, Bill CarlsonBill Carlson, Wei Yang, Stewart LedgardStewart Ledgard
Objective: The objectives of this study were to evaluate the implications of nitrogen emission limitations on eutrophication and climate change impacts of New Zealand (NZ) beef through its life cycle to a European market and estimate the reduction in these impacts that can be funded by the consumer’s willingness to pay (WTP) a premium for a low environmental-impact product. Method: Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from various beef production systems in the Lake Taupō region (NZ) were calculated from cradle to the European market. We modelled farm systems with and without N leaching constraints in place (N fertiliser inputs of 0 and 100 kg N/ha/year respectively) for suckler beef or beef derived from surplus calves from an average dairy farm. Eutrophication and climate change impacts of NZ beef to the European market were calculated using recent life cycle assessment (LCA) indicators. We estimated the European consumer’s WTP for beef with positive environmental attributes based on a meta-regression analysis and compared farmer’s profit for the farm system scenarios. Results: NZ beef showing the lowest environmental impacts was based on farm systems using calves from an average dairy farm. The 100N farms appeared to have a lower freshwater eutrophication impact than 0N farms when using common P-driven indicators, which is in contradiction with local freshwater policy. When accounting for the contribution of both N and P, the 0N farms scored better. Comparison with published average European-produced beef showed lower climate change and eutrophication impacts for NZ beef, thus showing potential positive environmental attributes for NZ beef. The European consumer’s WTP (32% price premium) for a beef product with low environmental impacts could offset the cost to farmers for implementing the reduction of N emissions. Conclusions: Freshwater eutrophication depends on P and N emissions, and both nutrients should be accounted for to reconcile LCA indicators and local freshwater policy. The lowest environmental impacts and highest profit across the value chain were achieved in the scenario where the cattle were reared on a beef farm using weaned calves from a dairy farm and with a price premium for a low environmental footprint beef.


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  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No



Journal title

Science of the Total Environment




Payen, S., Falconer, S., Carlson, B., Yang, W., & Ledgard, S. (2020). Eutrophication and climate change impacts of a case study on New Zealand beef to the European market. Science of the Total Environment, 710, 136120. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136120


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