Beef supply chain contributions to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to go down, and they can, according to a new report from Rabobank.

The report anticipates the market will be the most effective driver of GHG emissions reduction, and believes that beef supply chain emissions can be reduced by more than 30% by 2030 in major markets.

However, in order to unlock the opportunities, leadership is needed, according to Rabobank.

Beef supply chain accounts for 6% of global GHGs

Rabobank adds that all sectors and supply chains need to reduce emissions, and the beef supply chain is no exception.

According to the report, beef supply chains account for about 6% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, of which about half are accounted for by the beef production stage of the supply chain.

New and emerging technologies and management practices – covering feed production, cattle breeding, cattle feeding, and soil and pasture management – all offer significant opportunities to reduce emissions, it adds.

But that is not the only resource, global beef supply chain emissions can also be reduced significantly by transferring best practices from the most efficient beef supply chains to less efficient ones, Rabobank’s research indicates.

Market as main driver

The research also suggests that food and agribusiness (F&A) company commitments to lower the supply chain GHG emissions of beef and other animal proteins are on the rise.

Rabobank analyst – animal protein, Eva Gocsik said: “We believe that in most regions, these initiatives are likely to be more effective drivers of action to lower GHG emissions in beef supply chains than government regulations.”

Rabobank said that the voluntary goals set by F&A companies offer greater flexibility and clearer recognition for reducing emissions, and systems are being established to increase the credibility of these actions.

In contrast, regulatory approaches often encounter measurement and reporting problems.

“To remain the driving force, market-based approaches will need to demonstrate progress, otherwise, they will be replaced by regulation,” explains Gocsik.

Scope for reduction in emissions

Rabobank sees scope to reduce GHG emissions by more than 30% by 2030 in Europe, North America, Brazil, Argentina, and Oceania.

This would amount to a reduction of beef supply chain emissions by at least 0.6gt CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) by 2030.

The highest reductions are expected in the upstream feed production and cattle production stages of the chain.

“If action can be accelerated through technology developments or clearer incentives, we believe emissions could be reduced by about 40% by 2030 in these major markets,” added Gocsik.

“We think that actions to reduce emissions in major markets will also have spillover benefits in other beef markets, leading to reductions of about 5%.”

Leadership in beef supply chain

According to Rabobank, the “misalignment of benefits and costs” along beef supply chains is holding back progress in emissions reduction.

It said that leadership at F&A companies active in beef supply chains has the ability to unlock latent opportunities.

To do so, F&A companies need to set ambitious goals to reduce emissions, promote innovation, and enable supply chain partners to work together to achieve their goals.

“There is also a need for explicit recognition and reward for emissions reduction. This should not be seen solely in terms of higher prices – other benefits of reducing emissions will include productivity gains, improved risk management, access to new markets, and enhanced brand and reputation,” Gocsik concluded.