Beyond Beef Buzzwords
You don’t have to tell people who make their living from the land that treating it poorly is just bad business. Ranchers have been leading conservation efforts for generations. Yet, you’d have to have had your head in the sand to not hear something in the news about beef sustainability. The buzzword is popular, driving clicks and creating heated conversations from internet comment sections and small town diner’s to city coffee shops.
From Meatless Mondays to Meaty Mondays, it’s easy to pick one side and nail your stake into the ground. But sustainability is something most producers and consumers AGREE is a good thing. It’s a word that’s hard to define but makes us all feel good.
Consumers demand sustainability, ranchers execute it and Mother Nature necessitates it. But what does it really mean?
Is it a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions? Beef production only accounts for 1.9% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, the U.S. beef community has decreased its emissions per pound of beef by 16% from the 1970s to today.
Is it producing more with less? Between 1977 and 2007, U.S. family farmers and ranchers produced 13% more beef from 30% fewer animals.
How do we help capture the good things already happening in the beef supply chain, make it measurable and valuable to the consumer?
It’s questions like these that launched the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and shortly after the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Initiatives bringing people across the supply chain together, to talk about how to treat the environment and cattle better and how to translate our work back to those who buy the product.
“This is a great platform as an industry to talk about the good things that we’re doing,” says Mark McCully, vice president, supply for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand.
McCully has represented the brand as a part of both Rountables providing a quality branded-beef perspective to the conversations.
“It’s important to connect the good work our ranchers are doing every day from a conservation and preservation standpoint to the high quality beef product they produce,” McCully says. “These are pillars of what cattleman think about every day.”
The Global Roundtable work resulted in an industry recognized definition of sustainability.
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef defines sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes Planet (relevant principles: Natural Resources, Efficiency and Innovation, People and the Community); People (relevant principles: People and the Community and Food); Animals (relevant principle: Animal Health and Welfare); and Progress (relevant principles: Natural Resources, People and the Community, Animal Health and Welfare, Food, Efficiency and Innovation.
However, the work has just begun. The task now is to create measurable framework that can be applied on farms and ranches across the industry that meets the definition and provides value to the end consumer. The question turns from ‘What does that mean?’ to ‘How do we measure it?’
Attention-grabbing headlines claiming beef is bad for the environment aren’t going anywhere. These systems require input, data, and discussions. Since this is a dinner table conversation, everyone (producer, consumer and all those in-between) deserve a seat at the table for a conversation on how we can make the whole plate better.
McCully is hosting the Sustainability Engagement Forum at the NCBA Convention Feb. 1, 2019, 11:15 am – 12:45 pm. If you’re headed to New Orleans for #CattleCon, join the conversation.
We hope to see you there.
Until Next Time,
For more information on beef sustainability please visit: https://www.beefresearch.org/sustainability/index.html
About the author: Nicole Erceg
Raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon, I’m a fan of wide open spaces and rural life. I didn’t grow up in the beef industry, but I got here as fast as I could. My love for great stories, a well marbled steak and black cattle led me to Ohio where I consider myself blessed to blend my many passions into a “job” at CAB.