2 min read

Finding common ground for the grasslands

Finding common ground for the grasslands

The high-points:

  • Many consumers, non-profits, and government organizations are keen to know the environmental impacts of what consumers are buying, including meat.
  • Paper provides producers with actionable indicators to report sustainability metrics, specifically those within the cow/calf system.
  • In the programs they reviewed, many sustainability goals shared common interests with ranchers.

What you need to know: Sustainability has been growing in conversation recently with the COP26 summit occurring – many consumers, non-profits, and government organizations are keen to know the environmental impacts of what consumers are buying, including meat. And we, those in beef production, are at the forefront of this important yet often complex topic.

In the second paper in today's edition of R2R, we look at research that aims to clear up some of the complexity around sustainability and improve the communication of sustainability practices between those consuming beef products and those producing them. There are many sustainability assessments within the US, from groups like the BLM, The Grassland Alliance, and the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef – 22 of them were reviewed in this paper. These researchers then converted these papers into actionable, measurable, and economical items for use in the beef supply chain – an aspect of the sustainability conversation that has been missing.  

This research aimed to provide producers indicators that could be used in reporting sustainability metrics, specifically those within the cow/calf system. Corporations could then use these reports as measures to describe to the consumer what is being done to be more sustainable—ultimately providing better communication of the sustainability practices utilized at the ranch level. However, there needs to be a balance between the complexity of the measures used, the accuracy of sustainability testing, and the economic viability of the operations.

In the programs they reviewed, many sustainability goals shared common interests with ranchers, like rotational grazing to maintain high plant productivity, which increases water retention and carbon sequestration. Water flow patterns (i.e., water erosion) are a suggested indicator for ranchers to use to determine the ecological condition of their pastures. Many producers already use these management practices to ensure enough grass for their herd. This data could then be aggregated and used by meat processors to describe practices of their cattle sourcing to the consumer.

Industry application: Many organizations are working with ranchers to help quantify sustainability on the ranch level and use the data to help market the cattle that are being produced. With companies like Cargill and Walmart making sustainability goals commitments, the time soon approaches where we will need to decide what sustainability looks like at the ranch level and how we communicate it.

Read more about it:

A Synthesis of Ranch-Level Sustainability Indicators for Land Managers and to Communicate Across the US Beef Supply Chain
While increasing numbers of ranchers are striving to demonstrate sustainable ranching operations geared toward a healthy landscape, companies are seek…