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Grass-fed dairy and beef products are valued by consumers for their unique nutrient profile, enhanced animal welfare and lower environmental footprint compared to conventional produce derived from animals reared indoors on higher volumes of concentrate feeds (O'Callaghan et al., Reference O'Callaghan, Vázquez-Fresno, Serra-Cayuela, Dong, Mandal, Hennessy, McAuliffe, Dillon, Wishart, Stanton and Ross2018; Moscovici Joubran et al., Reference Moscovici Joubran, Pierce, Garvey, Shalloo and O'Callaghan2021). For the current study, pasture-based production of dairy and beef is defined as a system within which cattle graze freely outdoors on green pasture for ≥6 months per year, using grazed grass as the primary feed source (Läpple et al., Reference Läpple, Hennessy and O'Donovan2012). While pasture-based milk and beef production systems typically exhibit a considerably lower carbon footprint than indoor systems (Wassenaar et al., Reference Wassenaar, Grandgirard, Monni, Biala, Leip and Weiss2009; O'Brien et al., Reference O'Brien, Shalloo, Patton, Buckley, Grainger and Wallace2012, Reference O'Brien, Capper, Garnsworthy, Grainger and Shalloo2014), the impacts of intensive management of perennial ryegrass pastures and high stocking rates may have adverse effects on the environment and biodiversity (Delaby et al., Reference Delaby, Finn, Grange and Horan2020). This type of intensive grass-based production is particularly popular in island countries characterized by temperate maritime/oceanic climates where grass grows for most of the year; and is predominant in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and New Zealand (NZ) and widely practiced throughout the United Kingdom (UK) (DEFRA, 2019). For example, according to Teagasc National Farm Survey, in Ireland, in 2017, the diet of a typical Irish dairy cow constituted 95.4% of grass, from which 73.4% was grazed grass and 22.1% was grass silage (O'Brien et al., Reference O'Brien, Moran and Shalloo2019). Due to the length of grass growing season, pasture-based agriculture in these countries differs from continental pasture-based systems, e.g., Alpine cattle grazing in which cows graze high mountain meadows during summer, transhumance and other traditional approaches practiced on the continent (Carafa et al., Reference Carafa, Navarro, Bittante, Tagliapietra, Gallo, Tuohy and Franciosi2020). Moreover, in contrast to continental pasture-based agriculture, pasture-based dairy and beef sectors in island countries presented in this review are major contributors to growth in economic activity across the rural economy, milk processing/distribution, export marketing (>90% of milk and beef produced in ROI and NZ are destinated for exports) and research (Fitzgerald, Reference Fitzgerald2019; Lee-Jones, Reference Lee-Jones2019). Thus, to identify pro-environmental activities specific to the pasture-based system of interest, the selection of the reviewed studies was limited to research conducted in ROI, the UK and NZ—main island countries producing pasture-based milk and beef.



This work was supported by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [grant number 2019-CCRP-DS.20].

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.