Findings from a two-year study, supported by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), show measurable value in a sustainable approach to beef production and in utilizing self-assessments throughout the process.
The Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot Project tracked cattle from birth to patties, covering 36 ranches, 92,577 acres of land and 3.5 million pounds of beef. Pilot participants included the Noble Research Institute, Integrity Beef Alliance, Beef Marketing Group (BMG), Tyson Foods, Golden State Foods and McDonald's Corp.
USRSB indicators for sustainable beef production assessed during the pilot included: animal health and well-being, efficiency and yield, water resources, land resources, air and greenhouse gas emissions, and employee safety and well-being. The project ran from 2017 through 2019 and started at ranches in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas with calves born in February and March, and weaned at 6 to 8 months of age. They went to a BMG feedyard in November and December, and in May, June and July were harvested at Tyson's plant, in Holcomb, Kansas. Hamburger was shipped within three to five days to Golden State Foods in Alabama, where it was ground and formed into patties, all distributed by McDonald's across the Southeast in May, June and July.
A cattle producer taking part in the pilot, Meredith Ellis, says she and her father, GC Ellis, raise feeders on grassland in Texas. She believes the pilot was an opportunity for their family operation and notes they have developed an advanced grazing plan, and have 92% of their ground covered in plant life year-round.
"Getting data back on how our calves performed ... that's something we've never had before," she says. "Just having this knowledge will help us tremendously going forward. We want to provide the healthiest beef on the healthiest land you can possibly have."
Find the assessment at nobleapps.noble.org.
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