Current outlook and future perspectives of beef production in Brazil
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Brazil is the world's largest beef exporter with the world's largest commercial cattle herd; however, the production cycle needs to be more efficient to supply internal and external demands in the future. Feedlot operations are currently a reality for the Brazilian beef cattle industry; nonetheless the beef cattle industry in Brazil is still based on grass-fed animals in which the Nellore breed predominates. At some point this constitutes an important advantage for Brazilian beef exportations because some countries look for “natural beef.” Brazilian packing plants regulate the use of antibiotics, especially ionophores used as growth promoters, on farms certified to export beef to European countries. In addition, the use of any implant or beta-agonist for cattle is forbidden in Brazil. From 1970 to 2006, the Brazilian bovine herd increased at 2.04%/year, total pasture at 0.07%/year, area with cultivated pasture at 3.5%/year, and ratio of animals/hectare of total pasture at 1.97%/year, whereas the area with natural pasture decreased at 2.26%/year. These trends alleviate some of the pressure on Brazilian authorities with respect to deforestation of the Amazon forest. Although Brazil had the greatest growth rate of enteric methane emissions, it also had the greatest growth rate of beef production, resulting in Brazil having a negative growth rate (–1.82%/year) of methane emissions per unit of product (kilogram of methane/kilogram of beef).