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Kim Stackhouse PhD Comment ID #3359

Submitted 03/03/2015

The Beef Checkoff appreciates the opportunity to provide scientific evidence to USDA and HHS in response to the Advisory Report.

The Beef Checkoff submits these comments to highlight recent advances and science-based analyses made by farmers and ranchers to continuously improve the sustainability of its practices. While it is an ongoing and continual process, the industry is proud of its long-term commitment and evidence-based advances in this area. Ensuring a sustainable food supply is undoubtedly one of the greatest societal challenges we face. By 2050, we will need to produce 70 percent more food than we do today in order to feed the growing population.

Ensuring a sustainable food supply requires balancing efficient agricultural production with environmental, social and economic impacts. Only by looking holistically at food production practices can our food systems meet demand and minimize unintended consequences. The beef industry recognizes the important role it plays to produce food in a more sustainable manner and has committed to a journey toward more sustainable beef. As a first step, the Beef Checkoff Program launched a comprehensive assessment to quantify and benchmark all environmental, social and economic aspects of beef industry sustainability.

The checkoff-funded Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment serves as a guidepost for continuous improvement across the full beef value chain and was certified by the NSF International, lending credible, third-party verification to the study [1,2]. The results of the life cycle assessment highlight the industry’s significant achievements over time and help identify areas for future progress and innovation. Beef’s overall sustainability has improved 5% in six years and the overall environmental and social fingerprint of the beef industry has been reduced by 7% in this time. More specifically, between 2005 and 2011, the beef industry reduced:
• Emissions to soil by 7%;
• Greenhouse gas emissions by 2%;
• Acidification potential emissions by 3%;
• Emissions to water by 10%;
• Water use by 3%;
• Land use by 4%;
• Energy use by 2%;
• Resource consumption by 2%; and
• Occupational illnesses and accidents by 32%.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for improvements in beef industry sustainability and each individual along the value chain has a role to play. Increased efficiency is undoubtedly the greatest contributor to increased sustainability and it will continue to be the beef value chain’s best opportunity for future progress. Several of the opportunities for improvement identified in this assessment require additional research to better understand how changes and improvements can be adopted by individual producers.

For example, the completion of the life cycle assessment identified food waste as a significant opportunity for improvement, one where individuals can make a difference. An estimated 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is wasted, contributing to losses in efficiency across the entire food value chain. By cutting beef waste in half, the full beef value chain would achieve an approximate 10 percent improvement in full-chain sustainability. The Beef Checkoff is actively pursuing scientific research and education in an effort to address and reduce beef-related food waste.

In addition to further regional research, there is also a need to capture and quantify some of the less tangible benefits of the beef value chain. These intangibles include important attributes of beef production such as the preservation of open space and wildlife habitat. As the science of life cycle assessments continues to improve over time, improvements that are being made by the beef value chain may be more fully understood and quantified in the future. The industry has demonstrated a commitment to continually improving how beef is produced and is constantly searching for new and better methods to lower its environmental fingerprint while improving its social and economic contributions to communities across the country.

Sources:
1) Battagliese T, Andrade J, Shulze I, Uhlman B, Stackhouse-Lawson K, Reagan J, and Rotz A. US Beef –Phase 1 Eco-efficiency Analysis. 2013. http://www.nsf.org/services/by-industry/sustainability-environment/claims-validation/eco-efficiency/
2) Rotz C.A., Isenberg B. J., Stackhouse-Lawson K.R, and Pollak E.J. A simulation-based approach for evaluating and comparing the environmental footprints of beef production systems. J. Anim. Sci. 2013;91:5427–37.

Affiliation: Industry/Industry Association Organization: The Beef Checkoff
Topic:
  • Chapter D.5: Food Sustainability and Safety

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