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Environmental impacts of Brazilian beef cattle production in the Amazon, Cerrado, Pampa, and Pantanal biomes
Journal of Cleaner Production  (IF11.072),  Pub Date : 2021-06-02, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.127750
Milene Dick, Marcelo Abreu da Silva, Rickiel Rodrigues Franklin da Silva, Otoniel Geter Lauz Ferreira, Manoel de Souza Maia, Sebastião Ferreira de Lima, Vespasiano Borges de Paiva Neto, Homero Dewes

Grazing cattle production plays a fundamental role in rural landscape conservation, food security, and bioeconomy, allowing for subsistence, income, insurance, and food around the world. Conversely, livestock is associated with negative impacts on human health, animal welfare, and ecosystems. Thereby, a broad knowledge of the impacts of pasture-based beef production is essential for proposing sustainable practices and systems, particularly in Brazil, due to its importance. In this context, this study aims to assess the environmental impacts of beef production systems characteristic of different Brazilian biomes and, thus, provide baselines that support the future development of differentiated mitigation alternatives. Four systems were defined based on the relevance of the livestock activity in the Amazon, Cerrado, Pampa, and Pantanal biomes. Its main environmental impacts and components were identified using the life cycle analysis - LCA method, during the entire productive lives of the animals. GHG emissions resulted in mean values for Brazilian beef production of 13.32 kg CO2 equivalent per kg of live weight gain. The Cerrado presented higher values of terrestrial acidification, depletion of metals and fossil fuels, freshwater and marine ecotoxicity, and particulate matter formation. The Pantanal was more impacting in terms of climate change, water depletion, freshwater and marine eutrophication, and the photochemical oxidants formation. The Pampa was the region with the highest agricultural land occupation. Human toxicity and terrestrial ecotoxicity were negative in all systems. Occupation of urban areas, ozone depletion, natural areas transformation, and ionizing radiation were not significant, concerning other human activities after normalization. The inclusion of different impact categories in the analysis offers new perspectives to minimize the impacts of Brazilian livestock on the planet. Pasture-based animal production systems with greater ecological, water, and carbon footprints show better results in indicators related to human health and environmental conservation. The intensification of grazing and the introduction of more productive forage species may represent new opportunities for adding value, improving life quality, and conservation of sensitive areas found in different environments that make up the diversity of Brazilian livestock production.