A recent webinar heard details of a pilot scheme in place which sees Brazilian beef farmers rewarded with an 8% price bonus for joining a programme that claims to produce ‘carbon neutral Brazilian beef’.

The seminar was titled ‘AgriTalks Ireland: The Brazilian experience in reducing the carbon footprint in livestock farming‘ and took place on Wednesday (November 30).

The online event was was hosted by Euractiv and was organised by the Embassy of Brazil in Dublin, as well as the Brazilian trade and investment promotion agency ‘ApexBrasil’.

The panellists were as follows:

  • Dr. Paul Crosson, beef enterprise leader, Teagasc Agriculture and Food Development Authority;
  • Prof. Tommy Boland, associate dean of research innovation and impact, School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin;
  • Dr. Mariana de Aragao Pereira, senior researcher, Embrapa – Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation;
  • Luiza Bruscato, executive manager, Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS).

Dr. Paul Crosson and Prof. Tommy Boland spoke in detail on the measures Ireland is taking to reduce the carbon footprint of its beef production system, while Dr. Mariana de Aragao Pereira and Luiza Bruscato outlined the measures being taken in Brazil.

The webinar heard how the Brazilian livestock sector is working to improve its sustainability.

Brazil’s carbon-neutral beef

Dr. Mariana de Aragao Pereira from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation Embrapa explained the details of the Carbon Neutral Beef (CNB) brand in Brazil and the method of production which gives the beef, she said, “a seal which certifies beef produced using systems that neutralise methane gas emissions”.

“We developed this in partnership with Marfrig, a major slaughterhouse in Brazil,” she said.

“This protocol is called Carbon Neutral Brazilian Beef.

“The aim of this protocol is to neutralise the enteric methane emissions and add value to beef,” she continued.

“The idea was to reduce the environmental impact of livestock by introducing trees in the systems in a way that the number of trees could offset the emissions by capturing the carbon in the trunks.”

“By doing that, these trees would add to the system in environmental terms and add value to the whole production, increasing the profitability of the system.

The premium for farmers joining this protocol is 8% on top of the beef price.

The scheme is only available in regions of Brazil where there are already established beef farms. The trees used are Eucalyptus trees and the timber must be used for furniture or building, and cannot be burned.

Dr. Mariana de Aragao Pereira added that mechanisms such as this “could easily be implemented in other countries such as Ireland”.

Average Brazilian cattle slaughter age

Dr. de Aragao Pereira went on to explain that the Brazilian beef sector “needs to reduce its average slaughter age” but said that it has been “reduced already”.

She said the average cattle slaughter age in Brazil used to be 48 months of age and has reduced to 30-36 months of age already, but she said “we can to better”.

She added that by doing this, and a range of other measures, the Brazilian beef sector “is expecting to mitigate one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent throughout a 10-year period”.

Interestingly, Dr. Mariana explained that Brazilian beef production are primarily “pasture-based systems” and noted that Brazil has a “huge opportunity to finish cattle earlier” if the country’s beef sector uses an “intensive fattening” period for the final finishing stage.

In April 2021, the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) created the ABC+ Plan for the adaptation of agriculture to low carbon emissions systems. 

The Brazilian beef sector aims to “marginally increase the herd while reducing the grazing areas”. 

Stay tuned to Agriland for more updates from this webinar.