Air Pollution Impacts on Latinx communities in California Caused by Beef Production

A study published by University of Michigan researchers, including Joshua Newell at the School for Environment and Sustainability, quantifies the air pollution that impacts Latinx communities in California due to beef production.
Newell and his co-authors—Benjamin Goldstein, a former SEAS post-doctoral researcher who is now an assistant professor at McGill University, and Sanaz Chamanara, a research assistant at the U-M Center for Sustainable Systems—focus on Costco’s beef supply chain in California and explore the environmental impacts of air pollution resulting from beef production in the San Joaquin Valley, a region that has some of the worst air quality in the United States. Costco is one of America’s largest beef retailers.
In their paper, “Where’s the beef? Costco’s meat supply chain and environmental justice in California,” which was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the authors note that as consumers increasingly demand transparency in corporate supply chains, “distance, multiple transacting companies and supplier fluidity keep most supply chains opaque, which makes it difficult to know if the products we consume have positive or negative impacts on the peoples and places that produce them.”
Combining life cycle analysis with an environmental justice approach, the researchers tracked corporate supply chains and identify pollution hotspots. Their key findings:
– Costco sources beef from the heavily polluted San Joaquin Valley in California.
– There is an inverse relationship between air pollution (PM2.5 emission) and the distance to feedlots.
– Beef production is linked to uneven disease burdens, including asthma, heart disease, and low birth rate, along the supply chain.
– Minority (esp. Latinx) and lower-income communities are especially affected by beef production in the San Joaquin Valley.
“Documenting the geographically specific impacts of livestock production opens up opportunities for corporations to address environmental injustices in their supply chains through more sustainable sourcing and production practices, and for consumers to rethink their consumption of meat,” Newell said.
Read the full paper in Journal of Cleaner Production.