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

Payen S., Falconer S., Carlson B., Yang W., Ledgard S.. 2020. Science of the Total Environment, 710 : 12 p..

DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.136120

Objective: Beef production in the Lake Taupo region of New Zealand (NZ) is regulated for nitrogen (N) leaching. The objectives of this study were to 1) evaluate the implications of nitrogen emission limitations on eutrophication and climate change impacts of NZ beef through its life cycle to a European market and uniquely link it to 2) estimation of 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: The cradle-to-market Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of NZ beef on the European market included beef production on farms, meat processing, packaging and transport stages. Various beef production systems in the Lake Taupo region were modelled: farm systems with and without regulated N leaching limits in place (using N fertiliser inputs of 0 and 100 kg N/ha/year respectively) using suckler beef or beef derived from surplus calves from a dairy farm. The FARMAX model was used to model farm productivity and profitability under these various scenarios, whereas the OVERSEER® model was used to model field/farm emissions (N, phosphorus (P)) and the NZ greenhouse gas (GHG) Inventory model was used to estimate total GHG emissions. Eutrophication and climate change impacts of NZ beef to the European market were calculated using recent regionalised LCA indicators. We estimated freshwater and marine eutrophication impacts of European beef using published N emissions to water and air. We estimated the European consumer's WTP for beef with positive environmental attributes based on a meta-regression analysis based on 21 published studies and compared farmer's profit for the farm system scenarios. Results: When using common P-driven eutrophication indicators, the farms using 100 kg fertiliser-N/ha/year appeared to have a lower freshwater eutrophication impact than farms using no N fertiliser, which is in contradiction with the local freshwater policy for N regulations. When the contribution of both N and P were accounted for, the farms using no N fertiliser had the lowest estimated impact. Comparison with published environmental footprint of beef from Europe 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 such a beef product with low environmental impacts could offset the cost to farmers for implementing the reduction of N emissions. Conclusions: Bridging the gap between local freshwater policy and LCA indicators starts by considering both P and N emissions and impacts. Combining an environmental LCA with an economic analysis revealed that the consumer willingness to pay could compensate for the environmental cost of protecting the lake that currently only the farmers are bearing.

Mots-clés : Élevage; boeuf; eutrophisation; impact sur l'environnement; azote; prix à la consommation; nouvelle-zélande; europe; acceptation des prix

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