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Beef sustainability study is ongoing

By Jennifer Carrico

BEEF SUSTAINABILITY—Richard Gebhart, Oklahoma cattleman and vice-chair of the checkoff's producer communications working group, discussed the importance of sustainability during the press conference announcing preliminary results of the Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment. (Journal photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

The Beef Promotion Operating Committee released the preliminary results of the Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment during a press conference held during the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention in Tampa, Fla.

"Sustainability doesn't have an on/off switch. It's a journey," said Oklahoma cattleman Richard Gebhart. "This particular journey started two years ago when the Beef Promotion Operating Committee decided to fund the sustainability project. Raising cattle in a sustainable way has been important to the cattle industry for a long time, but this is the first opportunity we have had to use science to tell that story."

This assessment is ongoing and has been conducted by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. BASF Corporation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service have played a part in collecting and interpreting the data needed for this assessment.

NCBA Director of Sustainability Kim Stackhouse-Lawson said this assessment will provide a roadmap for the journey toward a more sustainable beef industry. "The U.S. beef industry is one of the most complex biological, economic and social supply chains in the world. Measuring each of these takes time and the results will be critically important to the future stability and profitability of the industry."

She said it was important to conduct a comprehensive sustainability assessment of the entire beef industry. It started by comparing how the industry has changed since the shift to boxed beef in the 1970s, to learning how to make management changes when ethanol became a major commodity in 2005 and then the sifts in commodity price changes more recently.

So many aspects were taken into account when looking at this sustainability study. For the first time, a social component was added to see how social opinions affect beef sustainability. Science and facts are also important components to this study. Environmental and economic impacts are taken into account with each step.

"This is the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind. There are many stakeholders in this study," she said.

A sustainable beef industry is critically important as we work toward the goal of feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050, a global population explosion that experts estimate will require at least 70 percent more food with few additional resources.

"We have a sustainable product today, but we want a more sustainable product for tomorrow," she said.

More results are expected in April.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

Date: 2/25/2013

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