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Agricultural News

Beef Industry At Forefront of Animal Ag on Measuring Substainability- Kim Stackhouse Lawson

Mon, 23 Mar 2015 23:49:16 CDT

Beef Industry At Forefront of Animal Ag on Measuring Substainability- Kim Stackhouse Lawson America's beef industry is working to improve sustainability. One of the featured speakers at the Noble Foundation's Texoma Cattlemen's Conference Saturday in Ardmore was National Cattlemen's Beef Association Director of Sustainability Research Kim Stackhouse-Lawson. Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays caught up with Lawson at the conference. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR below for the full interview. Lawson said globally the U.S. has a wonderful story to tell.

"We are certainly the most efficient and most sustainable industry in the global sphere, so being able to step up there and take a leadership role and educate other countries on the good things that we are doing and help them drive toward their goals of more sustainable beef really sets us apart and allows us to lead in a very meaningful way," Lawson said.

In comparing protein sources, the beef industry often comes under fire. Lawson said that criticism is unfounded as research funded by the beef checkoff in 2010 shows a different story. She said in five years the U.S. beef industry has been able to improve overall sustainability by five percent. In looking at environmental and social sustainability, she said the U.S. has improved seven percent. Farmers have also been able to reduce their emissions or pollution in water by 10 percent, along with reducing energy, greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

Sustainability looks at the entire production process from the field to the consumer. Lawson said improvements in sustainability are linked to the efficiencies in growing corn with less fertilizer and less water, while increasing crop yields. This also include improvements in animal performance and increasing the utilization of manure. Sustainability also includes post-harvest improvements at the packer level in capturing biogases and having retailers use less packaging. Lawson said everyone along the value chain is working to be efficient, to innovate and improve financial gain, as efforts to reduce costs also improve environmental impact and social sustainability.

The consumer may forgot they are a part of this process as well. Lawson said the biggest opportunity to improve sustainability is at the dinner table.

"Forty percent of the food agriculture produces is wasted," Lawson said. "Only 20 percent of beef is wasted, but if we could reduce consumer food waste by half, we could improve the sustainability of beef 10 percent overnight. So it is absolutely the full chain working together to create more sustainable beef."

Efforts have begun to make a lifecycle assessment of beef. That effort began at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska. Lawson said this allowed for collection of a very defined and controlled data set to make sure the computer models that will predict these impacts were accurate. The second phase of individual data collection took place in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. Currently data is being collected in Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota. She said people are providing their individual ranch data to help better tell the beef story.

"We've been sustainable as an industry for a long, long time, we have six and seventh generation ranchers and those producers want to be able to tell our story, so for them that outreach is just giving those individuals the language to talk about sustainability to some of our critics," Lawson said.

Hays and Lawson also discuss whether there could be a financial incentive for producers to become sustainable and they addressed how the advisory committee included sustainability into the dietary guideline proposal. The public comment period through the Federal Register continues until May 8th.


Ron Hays interviews Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of Sustainability for NCBA
right-click to download mp3


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