The problems of overproduction within the European Union countries and the environmental impact of agriculture have lead to the introduction of schemes that aim to reduce both. Beef (Bos taurus) production forms a large component of the Irish agricultural industry and accounts for more than one quarter of agricultural economic output. Recently, the European CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) has been re-evaluated to include supplementary measures that encompass the environmental role of agriculture rather than just the production role. A life cycle assessment (LCA) method was adopted to estimate emissions per kilogram of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of live weight (LW) leaving the farm gate per annum (kg CO2 kg(-1) LW yr(-1)) and per hectare (kg CO2 ha(-1) yr(-1)). Fifteen units engaged in suckler-beef production (five conventional, five in an Irish agri-environmental scheme, and five organic units) were evaluated for emissions per unit product and area. The average emissions from the conventional units were 13.0 kg CO2 kg(-1) LW yr(-1), from the agri-environmental scheme units 12.2 kg CO2 kg(-1) LW yr(-1), and from the organic units 11.1 kg CO2 kg LW yr(-1). The average emissions per unit area from the conventional units was 5346 kg CO2 ha(-1) yr(-1), from the agri-environmental scheme units 4372 kg CO2 ha(-1) yr(-1), and from the organic units 2302 kg CO2 ha(-1) yr(-1). Results indicated that moving toward extensive production could reduce emissions per unit product and area but live weight production per hectare would be reduced.
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