6 Eye-Opening Facts on Beef Sustainability

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.

When it comes to beef sustainability, it’s about more than the environmental impact and ethical considerations. It’s about a movement that honors tradition. It’s the reason why we source proteins and vegetables from farmers across the country for each Heritage Fire destination. Let’s take a look at how today’s beef farmers and ranchers are contributing to a more sustainable food supply with six intriguing facts from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.

Family-Owned for Generations:

More than 90% of U.S. farms and ranches are family-owned. These family-run operations often have a deep connection to the land and prioritize sustainable practices. Their long-term commitment to the land fosters a sense of stewardship, leading to responsible land management, conservation efforts, and sustainable farming practices. 1

Providing Habitat for Wildlife:

Cattle ranches can provide habitats for a variety of wildlife species, like hummingbirds, butterflies, and more. Ranchers often work in partnership with conservation organizations to implement wildlife-friendly practices, such as preserving wetlands and restoring native grasslands, contributing to biodiversity conservation. 2

Converting Plants to Protein:

Cattle efficiently convert plants that are indigestible to humans into nutritious meat. This enables us to utilize land resources unsuitable for growing crops and convert them into a valuable source of protein, generating more protein for the human food supply than would exist with cattle. 3

Perfect Land for Cattle:

Not all land is suitable for crop cultivation. Approximately one-third of the land in the U.S. is pasture and rangeland which is unsuitable for growing food however, it’s perfect for raising cattle. 4,5

Carbon Storage in Soil:

Beef cattle regenerate land and sequester carbon naturally, simply by grazing. In fact, the U.S. land where cattle graze contains up to 30% of the world’s carbon stored in the soil. 6

Recycling Carbon with Cattle:

Cattle play a unique role in the carbon cycle by recycling carbon through their diet and manure. The methane belched from cattle only stays in the atmosphere for approximately 9-12 years before being recycled back into the ground via the biogenic carbon cycle. In comparison, CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. 7

Delicious Takeaways

Understanding the multifaceted aspects of beef sustainability allows us to appreciate the positive contributions of raising beef in the United States. By supporting sustainable ranching practices and making informed consumer choices, we can all contribute to the preservation of the environment while enjoying this delicious protein source.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, is a proud partner of Heritage Fire. They will be screening an exclusive preview of episode one of their documentary series, “Cattle Calling” before Heritage Fire Minneapolis, which illustrates what it takes for today’s ranching families to thrive despite a changing landscape and complex challenges. Visit their website https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/ to learn more about how cattle are raised.

  1. USDA-NASS. 2017. Census of Agriculture. Farm Typology. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/Typology/typology.pdf
  2. Barry, Sheila. 2021. Beef Cattle Grazing More Help than Harm for Endangered Plants and Animals.
  3. Baber, J.R. et al., 2018. Estimation of human-edible protein conversion efficiency, net protein contribution, and enteric methane production from beef production in the United States. Trans. Anim. Sci. 2(4): 439-450.
  4. USDA-ERS. 2021. Economic Research Service using data from the Major Land Use data series. Available at: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/major-land-uses.aspx
  5. Broocks, Ashley et al. 2017a. Carbon Footprint Comparison between Grass- and Grain-finished beef. OSU Extension, AFS-3292.
  6. ​​Silveira, et al. 2012. Carbon sequestration in grazing land ecosystems. University of Florida Extension. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS57400.pdf
  7. UC Davis. 2020. Clear Center. The Biogenic Carbon Cycle and Cattle. https://clear.ucdavis.edu/explainers/biogenic-carbon-cycle-and-cattle

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