Sustainability means different things to different people.
“If we’re not sustainable in what we do, we’re out of business,” said Nebraska cattleman Bill Rishel. “Many of us in the cattle business grew up thinking of sustainability as making enough money to keep ranching the next year. Of course that meant we had to care for our natural resources and manage them in a responsible way.
“That’s not as obvious to today’s consumer,” he said, “so we need to be part of this movement to redefine the concept.”
To some, it’s about increasing efficiency, to others it centers on land management. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCAB) did an assessment on the topic, and issued a comprehensive report last year.
“We define sustainability as balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity and social diligence,” said NCBA’s Kim Stackhouse-Lawson. “To the producers at home, this is really about continuing to leave ranches from generation to generation, improving their livelihoods and contributing and providing for local communities.”
Still, it’s hard to reconcile the way each industry segment defines the buzzword and its perception for consumers.
At the recent Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., a McDonalds Corp. vice president said that’s why his company helped start the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).
“If we don’t invest in sustainability, we’re not going to have all the customers we want in the future,” Bob Langert said. “We know what we’re good at, and we know what we’re not good at. What we’re good at is running restaurants, but we need to rely upon beef ranchers, processors, the industry to figure out what sustainability means.”
The Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand recently took a chair at the GRSB to join in the conversation.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to have these discussions on beef sustainability on behalf of our partners and our consumers,” said Mark McCully, CAB vice president of production. “We look forward to working with the greater beef community in their efforts to help define this somewhat abstract topic.”
CAB will bring a unique perspective as the world’s largest producer-owned branded beef program.
“We work in every segment of the beef industry, so we try to look at any challenge through the lens of all of those different players—from rancher, feedlot and packer to processor, distributor and end-user,” McCully said.