Beef industry leaders target sustainability

Carol Ryan Dumas/Capital Press File Beef cattle graze in Idaho's Wood River Valley. The beef industry has developed a framework for sustainability at every step of the supply chain.

The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has released a national framework to continuously improve the sustainability of U.S. beef throughout the supply chain.

The roundtable is a collaborative effort of the entire beef value chain, from cow-calf producers to retailers, as well as the research community and the non-government organizations that are so important for public trust, Ashley McDonald, senior director of sustainability for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said.

The framework is the result of three years of work to identify areas throughout the entire chain to improve the efficiency of beef production and getting that healthy product to consumer around the world, she said in a podcast.

“It really is a holistic look at cattle production and, ultimately, what goes into producing beef,” she said.

The areas of focus include air and greenhouse gas emissions, land and water resources, efficiency and yield, animal health and welfare and employee safety and wellbeing, she said.

Metrics for continuous improvement in those areas were developed by each sector for each sector — cow-calf, auction, feedyard, packers, processors, retailer and foodservice.

“We know we have a wonderful track record and history and heritage to build on in the beef industry, but we also know and are committed to making continuous improvement over time,” she said.

“We hope that we have developed tools and resources that will be really helpful to our producers on the ground,” she said.

Producers can use those resources to identify areas on their operations where they can make improvements and make those changes a reality, she said.

“Because, ultimately, that’s how we accomplish our mission of showing continuous improvement in beef sustainability,” she said.

The framework was put together by the people that will implement change in the supply chain, and it’s all about having a better operation, she said.

“I think that’s something that the beef industry, every producer out there, wants to do,” she said.

Producers want to have a better operation to pass down to the next generation and to leave the environment in better shape than when they started, she said.

The industry hears more and more how concerned consumers are about sustainability, but consumers still don’t know exactly what they mean when they say “sustainable beef,” she said.

“That gives us the opportunity as the beef industry to really write that story, and so we want to do that. We want to help them understand what we do, why we do it that way and that we’re committed … to continuously improving, making our operations better tomorrow than they were yesterday,” she said.

The industry needs to be at the table with the people who have the direct connection to consumers and their trust, she said.

“We have a wonderful story to tell, maybe the best sustainability story of any industry in the United States,” she said.

The framework was designed to apply to all sizes of operations and companies, no matter where they are in their sustainability journey. It is now open for a 60-day public comment period at www.usrsb.org.

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