Navigating sustainability trade-offs in global beef production

Adam C. Castonguay, Stephen Polasky, Matthew H. Holden, Mario Herrero, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Cecile Godde, Jinfeng Chang, James Gerber, G. Bradd Witt, Edward T. Game, Brett A. Bryan, Brendan Wintle, Katie Lee, Payal Bal, Eve McDonald-Madden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Beef production represents a complex global sustainability challenge including reducing poverty and hunger and the need for climate action. Understanding the trade-offs between these goals at a global scale and at resolutions to inform land use is critical for a global transition towards sustainable beef. Here we optimize global beef production at fine spatial resolution and identify trade-offs between economic and environmental objectives interpretable to global sustainability ambitions. We reveal that shifting production areas, compositions of current feeds and informed land restoration enable large emissions reductions of 34–85% annually (612–1,506 MtCO2e yr−1) without increasing costs. Even further reductions are possible but come at a trade-off with costs of production. Critically our approach can help to identify such trade-offs among multiple sustainability goals, produces fine-resolution mapping to inform required land-use change and does so at the scale necessary to shift towards a globally sustainable industry for beef and to sectors beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Australian Research Council—Future Fellowship Project ‘Where’s the beef? A systems model for taming a wicked environmental problem’ (ARC- FT170100140).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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