Major food and retail companies, cattle producers, veterinarians, scientists and non-governmental organizations have jointly adopted the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework, the first-ever resource to demonstrate U.S. beef sustainability across the full value-chain.
The framework is a product of the Fresno, California-based U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), a multi-stakeholder organization representing 30 percent of the nation’s cattle herd, more than 20 billion pounds of beef processed and more than 100 million consumers.
“Today, the U.S. beef industry serves a delicious, healthy and sustainable product,” said Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, JBS-USA director of sustainability and immediate past-chair of the USRSB. “The U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework is about telling that story to consumers by improving transparency, as well as helping the U.S. beef value-chain explore opportunities to more responsibly use resources, raise animals and care for the people who help beef get to the American dinner table.”
The framework leverages opportunities for continuous improvement unique to businesses and operations that raise, process or distribute beef in the U.S. The voluntary resource was developed over the course of four years by beef farmers and ranchers, feed-yard operators, livestock auction markets, packers and processors, retail and foodservice companies, veterinarians, NGOs and other stakeholders who share a mission to advance, support and communicate U.S. beef sustainability.
The framework outlines six high-priority indicators, areas most important to the sustainability of beef. These areas include water resources, land resources, animal health and well-being, employee safety and well-being, efficiency and yield, and air and greenhouse gas emissions. Guidance documents, or Sustainability Assessment Guides, help individuals and companies achieve sector-specific metrics, practices that demonstrate sustainability across high-priority indicators while ensuring operational and financial success.
Current USRSB Chair Ben Weinheimer spoke to the seven internal and public comment periods held during the development of the framework. These comment periods ensured the resource was applicable to all business models, regions and production systems.
“The framework is an extension of our definition of beef sustainability highlighting environmental, economic and social considerations,” Weinheimer said. “USRSB embraced each of these three pillars in the framework to ensure meaning for individuals looking to focus on viable areas of unique value to their business or operation.”
The USRSB will not oversee the implementation of the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework in the marketplace. However, it understands many of these programs may originate on their own and encourages market-driven initiatives.
“Market-place implementation is not the purpose of the roundtable, nor are regulations,” said Weinheimer. “The roundtable made a very important choice early on not to mandate standards or verify individual stakeholder performance. USRSB is focused on building trust with consumers and helping to educate the beef community about sustainability through the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework.”
The USRSB will showcase the framework to stakeholders across the nation throughout 2019 through identified outreach events, including national trade association meetings for the cattle, grocer and retail associations as well as regional meetings.
The USRSB is a collaborative, multi-stakeholder effort to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in the sustainability of U.S. beef production by educating and engaging the beef value-chain.