Producers conference focused on sustainable beef
November 4, 2010
by Meat&Poultry Staff
DENVER – America’s beef producers participated this week in the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef to advise attendees on the US beef industry’s on-going commitment to environmental sustainability and investment of checkoff dollars in the science to document it.
“Environmental sustainability is just as important to beef producers as it is to other conference attendees,” said Steve Foglesong, a farmer/rancher from Illinois and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “In fact, 85% of farmers and ranchers say environmental conservation is important to their success. It is a key part of our ‘triple bottom line.’ Farming and ranching must be environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable to be sustainable.”
“When I first heard about the ‘triple bottom line’ I thought, ‘This is what my family has been doing for over a century raising cattle in Montana.’ We just didn’t have a fancy name for it,” NCBA President-Elect Bill Donald told conference attendees.
Today’s farmers and ranchers use fewer natural resources to provide a growing population with an affordable supply of beef. Compared to 50 years ago, there are half as many farmers and ranchers today feeding a US population that has more than doubled. The US supplies 25%of the world’s beef with 10% of the world’s cattle, which reduces land, feed, water, fuel and other valuable resources needed to produce food for a growing world population. Efficiencies in US food production also have contributed to food affordability. We spend a smaller percentage of our disposable income on food in this country than consumers anywhere else in the world.
Beef contributes significantly to a healthy diet and minimally to total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, according to recent research and government data. Thanks to smart food production practices, the entire US agriculture sector accounts for only 6% of the country’s GHG emissions. Animal agriculture accounts for less than half of that total. Many experts agree US livestock production practices are an environmentally sustainable solution for raising food and should be considered a model for the rest of the world.
Cattle serve a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting inedible forages into beef. More than 85% of the grazing land in the US couldn’t otherwise be used to produce food, more than doubling the amount of land that can be used for food production in the US. The resulting product is a nutrient-rich source of protein that plays a key role in the human diet. One 3-oz. serving of beef is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients, including zinc, iron, protein and B vitamins, NCBA relays. Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, and beef provides the most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron.