Beef Checkoff Unveils Landmark Sustainability Project

The U.S. beef industry has announced initiation of a landmark checkoff-funded sustainability assessment.

Previous checkoff-funded research demonstrated beef’s carbon footprint in the United States decreased 18 percent in the last 30 years, and numerous sustainability experts have recognized progressive cattle-raising practices in the United States as a model for the world. The next and significant step in this sustainability journey is a multiyear research project that will quantify inputs, outputs and identify opportunities for continuous improvement in beef cattle-raising practices.

The Beef Checkoff Program will partner with BASF Corp. to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current state of the U.S. beef industry and identify the most important areas of focus for future innovation. BASF, internationally recognized for its sustainability efforts, has created tools and initiatives such as SET (Sustainability, Eco-Efficiency, Traceability) to help the food industry develop more sustainable products to meet the many global challenges and demands confronting the industry today, including the need to increase overall food production by 70 percent over the next 40 years to feed a growing world population while protecting the planet.

“We’ve all heard the terms ‘lifecycle assessment’ and ‘carbon footprint,’ but what makes this project and our partnership with BASF unique is our holistic focus on sustainability, including not only the environmental aspects of beef production, but also the social and economic aspects of what we do,” said Bo Reagan, senior VP of research, education and innovation for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the checkoff contractor managing this assessment. “This project has been thoughtfully designed to recognize the diversity of the U.S. beef industry while also being scientifically rigorous and credible, and perhaps most important, ends with tools cattlemen can use to improve.”

According to Reagan, the first step is to work with BASF to conduct what’s known as a hot spot analysis to assess stakeholder perceptions of the beef industry. BASF will then conduct a comprehensive cradle to grave lifecycle assessment of beef production. Research projects will then be developed to give producers tools to enhance the sustainability of their operations.

“While U.S. cattlemen are generally recognized around the world for having top notch practices and environmental stewardship, we also recognize that we must continue improving in order to meet growing consumer needs in the future,” said Oklahoma rancher Richard Gebhart. “It’s clear to me after sitting on the advisory panel for this project that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. That’s why it was important for us to fund this project. It will help us raise more sustainable beef over time by identifying opportunities to make continuous improvements in technologies and best management practices into the future.”

Today’s beef enjoys successes and a strong positive reputation because cattlemen and women have historically committed to protecting natural resources and raising more with fewer resources, advancing animal care and food safety, and contributing to their rural communities throughout America.

“The U.S. beef industry has demonstrated it is committed to continuous improvement over time,” Reagan said. “We look forward to working with BASF on this important project.”

Established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill, the Beef Checkoff Program assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

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