Kim Stackhouse-Lawson – Sustainability

(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to Farm Factor on AGam in Kansas. I’m your host Conrad Kabus. The Annual KLA Convention was held December 3rd through the 5th in Wichita, Kansas. Take a look. Farmers and ranchers gathered in early December to attend the Annual Kansas Livestock Association Convention where topics included nutrition, saturated fats, cattle markets and retail sales. Another important topic was the Beef Checkoff research. Kim Stackhouse the NCDA Director of Sustainability Research showed how the checkoff funded life cycle analysis is helping meet the demand of many grocers by providing hard evidence of the industry’s progression sustainability. (Kim) Here at the 102nd Livestock Association Convention, we’re gonna be discussing the Beef Checkoff Beef Sustainability Research Program and the Sustainability Assessment, which is the largest life cycle assessment ever to be conducted on the beef value chain. We’re gonna be discussing those results which show a positive improvement in the overall sustainability of the beef industry by five percent in six years. And if you focus on just the environmental and social aspects of sustainability the beef industry has improved seven percent in six years. So really a wonderful positive story and we’re gonna be discussing the research that went in to those results and then also opportunities for continuous improvement moving forward. (Conrad) The Beef Sustainability Research Program wants to use this research as proof to the American consumer that they are producing responsibly raised beef domestically and all over 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 the current status in the industry and provide a path forward of continuous improvement. The research encompasses the entirety of the beef industry from birth, to the calf, to the consumer. (Kim) The research is a funded Beef Checkoff research project. So, the first sustainability research authorization request was approved by the Beef Promotions Operating Committee in 2010 and since then the checkoff has invested nearly $2 million dollars in beef sustainability research to benchmark where the industry is today and to map where we need to be in the future, on a road of continuous improvement moving forward. (Conrad) The program is a proactive and innovative science approach to creating sustainability beef products for a growing world population while gaining consumer confidence in beef. (Kim) As the checkoff is written today in the 1985 Act, a dollar for every time an animal is sold is collected by the state beef councils. Fifty cents of that dollar stays in the state and 50 cents of that dollar goes to the National Cattleman’s Beef Board. Kansas is a large beef council state because of the number of cattle, so the Kansas Beef Council collects that dollar, 50 cents stays with the Kansas Beef Council and 50 cents is given to the… or sent to the Cattleman’s Beef Board. This research project was contracted through the Cattleman’s Beef Board and the Beef Promotions Operating Committee and the Federation of State Beef Councils. So, the state beef councils also have the opportunity to send additional money as a federation of state beef councils to the national checkoff. And so this project is funded by those two sources, so really an outstanding example of wonderful partnerships from both our states, the federation and the Cattleman’s Beef Board to fund this research.(Conrad) Good morning and welcome to Farm Factor on AGam in Kansas. I’m your host Conrad Kabus. Farmers and ranchers flocked from all over the state to attend the Annual Kansas Livestock Association Convention. Kim Stackhouse of the NCBA Director of Sustainability Research showed how the checkoff funded life cycle analysis is helping meet the demands of many grocers by providing hard evidence of the industries progression sustainability. (Kim) So the life cycle assessment that the Beef Checkoff funded through a contractor to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association is the first and largest life cycle assessment of its kind. It’s a life cycle assessment that goes from the time the animal is born til the consumer actually eats the product. There are 14 sustainability indicators and it is not just the largest life cycle assessment that’s ever been conducted for beef cattle, but the largest life cycle that’s ever been conducted in agriculture and I would argue, one of the largest that’s ever been conducted. (Conrad) In 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options,” which aimed at the full impact of the livestock sector on environmental problems, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. (Kim) So, there’s a lot of criticism of the beef industry and that began in 2006 when the United Nations released the report “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” And in that report livestock…they claimed that transportation was worse from a greenhouse gas perspective than livestock globally. So livestock was a larger contributor to climate change than all of the world’s transportation. So, all of the trucks, planes, cars, ships, etc. And at that time the media really took hold of those numbers, those figures. And for example Time magazine published that eating a T-bone steak was like driving a Hummer. And if you reduced your meat intake you could improve your individual carbon footprint. And so that was really the beginning of Meatless Monday’s and this perceived notion that if you reduced your meat intake you could improve your overall environmental impact as an individual. And so the Beef Industry needed research to tell their story, to understand not only their
impact from an environmental standpoint, but also to chart a path forward and continue to improve the sustainability of the beef industry. And so that was really the need for the research, that’s why the research was originally published. And I think this research has absolutely set the beef industry up to lead in this space and lead this conversation. In sustainability, we’re not just at the table, we’re setting the table. And that is a really good place for beef to be, and it is probably one of the more proactive and progressive areas in which we have had the opportunity to work as a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. (Conrad) The results are outstanding and are helping the cattle industry immensely. (Kim) Well it has great results now. I mean, in six years to improve your overall sustainability which includes economic, social and environmental aspects by five percent, the beef industry has done an absolutely outstanding job. That is unparamount in a commodity the size of the beef industry with its diversity. Right now we’re collecting more region-specific data. We’re sending out actually online surveys to our producers. And we’re having great responses. We’ve had over six hundred producers respond from four states. So producers are really beginning to trust the science, they’re beginning to want to tell their story. Perhaps one of the best stories that we have to tell. And I think as we get more granular data, we will have even better research to benchmark and to work from, and we have to continue down that path.

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