Beef has a sustainability problem. Is this the year the industry finds a fix?

Chris Casey  |  Food Dive  |  January 27, 2022

As producers explore regenerative farming and emission-busting feed additives, critics argue that more compelling solutions deserve investment.

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series on the trends that will shape the food and beverage industry in 2022.

Beef is not sustainable: That’s what critics charge and what many consumers want to see change.

The statistics around the meat’s environmental footprint are attention-grabbing. Globally, livestock contributes 14.5% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions, with beef responsible for the largest share, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations. The livestock industry was responsible for the second-largest share of emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas said to be 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide — in the U.S. in 2019, according to the EPA. Global methane emissions from cattle, meanwhile, have risen by more than 10% since 2000, according to Statista data.

“We all worry about what this future looks like, and we all feel extreme pressure to mitigate these impacts in a very real way,” said Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a researcher of sustainable cattle herding methods.

As major beef processors set their individual targets, the industry is also trying to collaborate with other stakeholders on the issue. The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has a membership portfolio that includes not only big beef producers, processors and their suppliers but also retailers, environmental groups and academic institutions.

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