America’s beef producers have been leaders in the area of sustainability. The Beef Sustainability Research program is proof of their commitment to producing responsibly raised beef to consumers across the globe. This checkoff-funded program includes the assessment of sustainability using an approach that balances environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence across the beef value chain. Research is conducted to provide the industry with science-validated sustainability indicators that serve as a benchmark of current status of the industry and provide a path forward of continuous improvement. The research encompasses the entirety of the beef industry from birth of the calf to the consumer, and the sustainability assessment marks the first and largest research project of its kind. The program is a proactive and innovative scientific approach to creating a sustainable beef product for a growing world population while gaining consumer confidence in beef.
Specific objectives include:
- Maintain consumer confidence in beef as a sustainable food
- Conduct research to benchmark and improve the sustainability of beef
- Serve as an industry resource for current, science-based, beef sustainability information
Fact Sheet Series "Tough Questions about Beef Sustainability"
The intent of this fact sheet series is to provide high-level answers to some of the more challenging and complex issues related to beef sustainability.
Fact Sheet 1: How Does the Carbon Footprint of U.S. Beef Compare to Global Beef?
Fact Sheet 2: Does Beef Really Use that Much Water?
Fact Sheet 3: Would Removing Beef from the Diet Actually Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
Fact Sheet 4: How Does Carbon Sequestration Affect the Sustainability of Beef?
Fact Sheet 5: Do Growth Promotants Reduce Environmental Impact?
Fact Sheet 6: Does grass-finished beef leave a lower carbon footprint than grain-finished beef? Fact Sheet 7: If we fed corn to humans instead of cattle, would land use be more sustainable? Fact Sheet 8: Is local beef more sustainable?
Fact Sheet 9: Can different Life Cycle Assessment studies be compared?
Fact Sheet 10: How do you know if you are looking at a comprehensive and high-quality life cycle assessment study?
Fact Sheet 11: How does animal health and welfare impact sustainability?
Fact Sheet 12: Do feedlots have the largest greenhouse gas impact in the beef value chain?
Fact Sheet 13: How does food waste impact sustainability?
Fact Sheet 14: Are residues of the growth hormones used in cattle in our drinking water?
Fact Sheet 15: Why is sustainability so difficult to define?
Beef Sustainability in the News
A four-part series on sustainability in Beef Today describes some of the initiatives by stakeholders, from ranchers to retailers, that document and highlight the beef sustainability story.
The articles, along with a brief editorial are available for download below:
Peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science Article
In early 2013, the initial benchmark research was certified by NSF International, the largest accredited, third-party body that certifies products to verify they align with national conformity standards by which to measure a product’s sustainability.
The study was published in the Journal of Animal Science in November, 2013. For the full text of the article go to A simulation-based approach for evaluating and comparing the environmental footprints of beef production systems.
Sustainability Executive Summary
The beef industry is the first food system to benchmark it current status relative to sustainability and develop a roadmap toward improvement that encompasses all three aspects of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic. This checkoff-funded research included an evaluation of thousands of data points to quantify the industry's progress since 2005. The Sustainability Executive Summary provides a snapshot of the research results.
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