Nutrient circularity for sustainability in beef supply chains: Comparing the performance of three manureshed approaches

TitleNutrient circularity for sustainability in beef supply chains: Comparing the performance of three manureshed approaches
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSpiegal S, Gwendwr M, Bittman S, Silveira M, Vendramini JMB, C. Rotz A, Flynn CK, Boggess M, Kleinman PJA
Conference NameWaste to Worth Annual Conference Proceedings 2022
Date Published4/4/2022
ARIS Log Number393333
Keywordsbeef supply chains, manureshed, Nutrient circularity, sustainability

Expectations of the beef industry are multiplying as communities seek to build sustainable agri-food systems for the long term. Nutrient circularity – recovering nutrients from manures and post-harvest byproducts and reusing them for agricultural production – is a promising yet complex strategy for achieving sustainability goals from grazing pasture to dinner plate. In the United States and Canada, flows of cattle from land-based systems to feedlots in the built environment provide opportunities for circular management, in which concentrated feedlot manure is cycled back onto either corn fed to cattle in the feedlot phase or the hay fed to grazing cattle in “earlier” links of the cattle supply chain. However, such flows can span great distances because feedlots that produce large volumes of manure tend to be concentrated in particular regions, but the Corn Belt that could use much of their nutrient loads is in the Upper Midwest and the hay-grazing systems that send cattle to feedlots are widely distributed. Systematically recycling manure from concentrated feedlots back to the land-based systems where cattle originated can help the US and Canadian beef industries meet their goals, but such efforts would require initial investments to transform management practices, trade structures, and social networks. With these major societal investments at stake, a reliable understanding of the tradeoffs of various approaches is needed. In turn understanding tradeoffs requires reliable data about geographically-specific flows coupled with expertise from multiple disciplines to interpret the data. Yet this sort of knowledge is rare. We sought to help fill this knowledge gap by comparing three manure recycling strategies using the conceptual framework of the ”manureshed” – the lands where surplus manure nutrients from concentrated animal feeding sites can be recycled to meet production, environmental, and socio-economic goals.