Do the social benefits of beef outweigh the social costs? Much of the research on sustainability focuses on negative environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are positive social benefits for beef as well, such as beef’s nutritional value as a food and ecosystem services.
What are ecosystem services? Ecosystem services are the benefits which people obtain from the ecosystem. Ecosystems are communities of living organisms interacting with their physical environment and one another. The living organisms include plants, animals, people, fungi, and bacteria, while the physical environment includes non-living components like sunlight, soils, water, air, and mineral nutrients. Each ecosystem community is unique in how its living and non-living components interact, but all healthy ecosystems impart critical goods and services necessary for human well-being.
Beef cattle production, including the proper management of grazing lands associated with it, is an important source of diverse ecosystem services to humans. The two-page fact sheets listed below provide an assessment of the economic value of beef cattle ranching-based ecosystem services by state. These economic values represent broad social benefits that are unpaid to beef farmers and ranchers.