Accounting for the environmental footprint of different beef production systems: the case of Uruguay

We are in a global context of growing concerns about the environmental sustainability of beef production and consumption -one of Uruguay's main export products- which has led to dietary changes, development of substitute products, environmental certification schemes and potential trade barriers. Livestock production has a large impact on the environment. But there are big differences between beef production systems worldwide -and at country level- that result in different environmental footprints.

The sustainable production of beef on native grasslands can play an important role in food security, by converting grass into animal protein for human consumption. At the same time, it can contribute to preserve ecosystem services provided by native grasslands, including carbon storage and sequestration, habitat for biodiversity, water flow regulation, nutrient cycling, forage production, cultural values, and also provide better living conditions for grazing animals (Tittonell, 2021).

What is the monetary value of these fundamental ecosystem services in different types of beef production systems? Does environmental certification of beef production help to preserve these ecosystem services? What policy instruments are adequate to promote sustainable beef production? What is the role of sustainable beef production in circular food systems at the country level?

This research project is conducted by Carolina Balian under the joint supervision of Dr. Hannah van Zanten (Farming Systems Ecology) and Dr. Milena Holmgren (Wildlife Ecology and Conservation) from WUR and Dr. Francisco Rosas from Universidad ORT, Uruguay.