America’s beef producers have been leaders in the area of sustainability. The Beef Sustainability Research program is proof of their commitment to producing responsibly raised beef to consumers across the globe. This checkoff-funded program includes the assessment of sustainability using an approach that balances environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence across the beef value chain. Research is conducted to provide the industry with science-validated sustainability indicators that serve as a benchmark of current status of the industry and provide a path forward of continuous improvement. The research encompasses the entirety of the beef industry from birth of the calf to the consumer, and the sustainability assessment marks the first and largest research project of its kind. The program is a proactive and innovative scientific approach to creating a sustainable beef product for a growing world population while gaining consumer confidence in beef.
Specific objectives include:
- Maintain consumer confidence in beef as a sustainable food
- Conduct research to benchmark and improve the sustainability of beef
- Serve as an industry resource for current, science-based, beef sustainability information
Fact Sheet Series "Tough Questions about Beef Sustainability"
The intent of this fact sheet series is to provide high-level answers to some of the more challenging and complex issues related to beef sustainability. To provide further understanding, Animated Infographics have been created to briefly illustrate many of the key points related to the sustainability questions addressed in the Fact Sheets.
Characteristics of Beef Cattle Operations
As part of the Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment, a nationwide characterization of regional beef production practices was conducted. Data on cattle production practices were gathered through voluntary surveys and on-site visits in 7 cattle-producing regions. These data provide information that is not readily available from other sources to help characterize representative cattle production systems used in the life cycle assessment of beef. Links to the full-text articles are available by clicking the link above.
Peer-reviewed International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment Article
The need to assess the sustainability attributes of the United States beef industry is underscored by its importance to food security locally and globally. A life cycle assessment (LCA) of the US beef value chain was conducted to develop baseline information on the environmental impacts of the industry including metrics of the cradle-to-farm gate (feed production, cow-calf, and feedlot operations) and post-farm gate (packing, case-ready, retail, restaurant, and consumer) segments.
The study was published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment in May, 2018. For the full text of the article go to: A life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of a beef system in the USA.
Peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science Article
In early 2013, the initial benchmark research was certified by NSF International, the largest accredited, third-party body that certifies products to verify they align with national conformity standards by which to measure a product’s sustainability.
The study was published in the Journal of Animal Science in November, 2013. For the full text of the article go to A simulation-based approach for evaluating and comparing the environmental footprints of beef production systems..
Sustainability Executive Summary
The beef industry is the first food system to benchmark it current status relative to sustainability and develop a roadmap toward improvement that encompasses all three aspects of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic. This checkoff-funded research included an evaluation of thousands of data points to quantify the industry's progress since 2005. The Sustainability Executive Summary provides a snapshot of the research results.
Download the PDF
Request free copies