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Limited results in the quest for sustainable beef — 3 Comments

  1. None of the definitions you shared even really come close to covering the full spectrum of impacts by:
    1) Grazing operations (including both rangeland and pasture, irrigated pasture, cropland pasture and more)
    2) Feedlot operations (including those that manage manure as solid, liquids, etc) and associated feed crop operations (a different supply chain with its own set of hot spots and associated solutions
    3) Processors/meatpackers

    Grass-fed pretty much only verifies what the cows eat (and usually no use of hormones and non-therapeutic antibiotics). It says nothing about management quality on producing ranches – whether they are overgrazed, polluting streams, negatively impacting native fish and wildlife, etc), emitting more heat-trapping pollution than they could be (e.g., especially in the eastern U.S., well managed pasture can sequester quite a bit of carbon, but poorly managed grazing that causes erosion and diminishes grass productivity can lead to losses of soil carbon).

    Take a look at the comprehensive approaches of The Grasslands Alliance (http://GrasslandsAlliance.org), Food Alliance, and the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Agriculture Network standard for definitions with far fewer gaps.

    The bottom line is the various players in the marketplace DO need to both incentivize and enable transitions to more sustainable practices. We just have a long long way to go to get effective programs both in place and generating broad results

  2. See also NRDC’s related synopses:
    1) Where’s the better beef – https://www.nrdc.org/resources/wheres-better-beef
    2) The Importance of Advancing Sustainability on Grazing Operations – https://www.nrdc.org/resources/grazing-operations-journey-better-beef
    3) The importance of Improving feedlots – https://www.nrdc.org/resources/feedlot-operations-why-it-matters
    4) The business case for more sustainable beef – https://www.nrdc.org/resources/business-case-better-beef

  3. Thanks, Jonathan. And for the links in a separate comment. I didn’t actually share any definitions of sustainable beef. I haven’t found any. I also didn’t attempt a comprehensive survey of all the unanswered questions. I’m glad you have addressed some of them I didn’t.

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