Carbon footprint verified with sale of cattle

by Bryan Salvage
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CASTLE ROCK, COLO. — Cattle were recently sold at auction for the first time under Integrated Management Information, Inc.’s new VerifiedGreen program, a verification system designed to monitor and reduce the carbon footprints of consumers and food companies. Auctioned animals were assigned a specific number of carbon credits took place on July 27 at Superior Livestock's Video Royale XVII sale in Winnemucca, Nev.

Cattle buyers, which were primarily feed yards, paid the owner, Mayfield Ranch of Hidalgo, N.M., one price for both the cattle purchased at auction and the carbon credits associated with the sustainable activities of the ranch.

"It has been hard to determine the actual value of carbon credits, but this program ensures the benefit of our credits will stay in the beef industry and not be sold to benefit another industry," said Butch Mayfield, owner of Mayfield Ranch. "One group of the cattle we sold brought $1.36 per lb. and topped the market that day so we are very pleased with the results."

IMI Global developed the VerifiedGreen solution to address sustainability programs, such as the initiative recently introduced by Wal-Mart, which will develop a Sustainability Product Index to encourage its suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and embrace environmentally sound production practices.

Farmers and ranchers who employ environmentally sustainable production processes can have their operations verified "green" by IMI Global's auditors, which makes them eligible to market their animals with carbon credits attached. The quantity of carbon credits attached to each calf is determined independently for each ranch based on the carbon sequestration rate of the land where the cattle were born and raised. The program is expected to appeal to producers who are environmentally conscious and looking for a method of capturing value from the carbon market.

"The benefit of marketing carbon credits attached to cattle or other commodities is it simplifies the process for farmers and ranchers," said John Saunders, chief executive officer of IMI Global. "Instead of having to develop new markets and customers for the credits they have to sell, farmers and ranchers can provide additional value to their current customers already buying the cattle. As cattle move through the production process, subsequent owners will be able to 'bank' these credits and offset their own emissions. Eventually, consumers who buy the sustainably produced food products at retail will be the primary drivers pulling these products through the process."

VerifiedGreen encourages farmers and ranchers to adopt, maintain and/or enhance environmentally sustainable production processes with reduced carbon output. These practices can include a wide variety of initiatives ranging from improving grazing programs that foster CO2 sequestration and forage quality to wind and solar energy systems to Earth-friendly feed to biodigesters that recover methane from manure to reduce emissions and produce electricity, heat and hot water for operations. IMI Global verifies its customers are implementing and sustaining such practices, ensuring the products they are producing are truly "green."

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