Beef is one of the main sources of protein and the key ingredient in one of the most American foods on the global menu: the hamburger. The U.S. consumed 24.8 billion pounds of beef in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, valuing the beef industry at $105 billion dollars. The carbon footprint of beef production in the U.S. shrunk 16.3% from 1977 to 2007 due to greater efficiencies in the industry, according to a 2014 study from Washington State University, the beef supply chain still requires energy and resources that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. And with 2015 declared one of the hottest years on record, the impact of climate change is ever more immediate.
To address these concerns while continuing to satisfy Americans’ appetite for beef, a new multi-stakeholder collaboration is working to make beef production in the U.S. “environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.” In 2015, a wide-ranging coalition of nearly 100 representatives across the beef supply chain, formed the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Inspired by a first-of-its-kind global roundtable, the USRSB’s mission is to develop metrics, pilot projects and verification methods aimed at addressing the environmental, social and economic impacts of beef production. As with any complex ecosystem, sustainable beef production will depend on achieving long-term balance in an ecosystem that binds together the land, animals and the people who depend on them to live and thrive.