Average emissions per kg of beef is estimated at 18.4 kg of the CO2 equivalent. So, assuming an average protein content of 250g per kilogram of beef, this is equal to 73.6kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of protein. These low numbers is put down to the grass-based production and low "land-use, land-use-change" emissions from domestic cropland expansion. In this regard, "the Irish system of beef production can be described as unique in the EU".
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission conducted an independent European-wide life-cycle analysis (LCA) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arising from the livestock sector in Europe. The work focused on the emissions generated from livestock production and considered all upstream emissions, including those arising from the production of imported agricultural inputs such as nitrogenous fertiliser and feed, through to the farm gate.
Minister Michael Creed noted that there is more to the figures than at first glance.
"They do not highlight the important contribution of our permanent pasture – some 90% of all Irish agricultural land – to maintaining a very significant carbon pool. This carbon pool could be released to the atmosphere if land is converted to arable and contribute further to climate change.
"It should also be noted that LCA figures should not be considered as static but are used to benchmark further improvements in the efficiency of Irish beef production systems. This is one of the core objectives of the new Beef Data and Genomics Programme which aims to further improve the environmental performance of Ireland’s suckler beef herd."
The figures came in a written response by the Minister for Agriculture to a question by Wexford deputy Mick Wallace.