Life Cycle Assessment of South African and Namibian Beef Retailed in South Africa




Problem Statement:

Given the high focus on climate and water impacts of livestock in recent FAO reports, as well as the trend towards increased red meat intake with rising income levels, WWF-SA wished to understand the impacts of beef production in a Southern African context, as well as to identify the key points of intervention along the beef value chain, so as to support their efforts towards creating a sustainable beef supply chain in South Africa.

The Green House approach:

The project was undertaken in partnership with Woolworths, thus a number of meetings were held with WWF-SA, the Woolworths project team and red meat experts to fully scope the project. The agreed system to study was the production and retail of two high-grade beef products (steak and mince) in South Africa, including cattle rearing, fattening (both feedlot and free-range), slaughtering, processing, packaging and retailing. The scope of the study was later extended to include Namibia because of the need to source free-range farmers to participate in the study.

Woolworths provided introductions to the abattoirs and meat processors supplying them, and site visits were conducted to the abattoirs, meat processors and feedlots that were willing to participate in the study. The Green House team sourced livestock farmers to participate in the study, with data collected via phone interviews. This primary site-specific data was combined with South African agricultural datasets and The Green House’s proprietary LCI database to build a life cycle model of beef production.

An important part of the life cycle model is the sustainability metrics against which the product is assessed. The Beef LCA study is unique in South Africa as it is the first LCA study to apply regional life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods for water stress, land use (biodiversity), acidification and eutrophication. The regional LCIA methods are developed by The Green House for South Africa from state-of-the-art international LCIA methods.


The main deliverables for the study are a presentation of key findings and a report. Feedback sessions were held with WWF-SA and the Woolworths Good Business Journey team members, as well as with the Woolworths Protein team, at various stages during the project, as well as at the close. The study provided some key insights into beef production that will support Woolworths’ promotion of particular farming practices.