CENTENNIAL, Colo. – In just six years, the US beef industry has improved its sustainability by 5 percent, according to the recently released results of the checkoff-funded Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment. Kim Stackouse-Lawson, Ph.D., director of sustainability for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, said these improvements have been seen throughout the industry
“If you look at just environmental and social sustainability, we’ve been able to improve 7 percent in six years,” she said. “These are really tremendous improvements. And those are coming from innovations all along the value chain including improvements in crop fields, animal performance, machinery technology, plus manure and fertilizer application to land. On the post-harvest side, we’ve seen the advent of biogas capture in our packing facilities, right-size packaging, waste water recycling and more . It’s really all across the chain.”
When it comes to sustainability, one of the misnomers is that all of the impact is on-farm, Stackouse-Lawson said. “That’s absolutely not true,” she added. “It’s about every single sector all the way to the consumer. Believe it or not, the consumer even has an impact.”
The greatest future opportunity the US beef industry has even at the research points is actually a consumer impact and it lies in the area of food waste. Consumers waste about 40 percent of the food they buy from the grocery store. Either it goes bad in their refrigerator or they cook too much and they don’t eat it, she said. “If we could reduce the food waste of beef by half, we could improve the sustainability of our product another 10 percent,” she added.
“If we put that back to the beef production side – where are those greatest opportunities; what can our producers do? It’s all about doing what we do best: improving efficiencies and innovations, continuing to produce more with less and making sure our cattle are the most efficient biological entities we have to produce food for the world,” she concluded.