Tough Questions about Beef Sustainability

Fact Sheet Series "Tough Questions about Beef Sustainability"
The intent of this fact sheet series is to provide high-level answers to some of the more challenging and complex issues related to beef sustainability. To provide further understanding, Animated Infographics have been created to briefly illustrate many of the key points related to the sustainability questions addressed in the Fact Sheets below.

To view the Fact Sheets, click the icon.

To view the Animated Infographics, click the icon.

Question 1: How does the carbon footprint of U.S. beef compare to global beef?

Question 2: Does beef really use that much water?

Question 3: Would removing beef from the diet actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Question 4: How does carbon sequestration affect the sustainability of beef?

Question 5: Do growth promotants reduce environmental impact?

Question 6: Does grass-finished beef leave a lower carbon footprint than grain-finished?

Question 7: If we fed corn to humans instead of cattle, would land use be more sustainable?

Question 8: Is local beef more sustainable?

Question 9: Can different Life Cycle Assessment studies be compared?

Question 10: How do you know if you are looking at a comprehensive and high-quality life cycle assessment study?

Question 11: How does animal health and welfare impact sustainability?

Question 12: Do feedlots have the largest greenhouse gas impact in the beef value chain?

Question 13: How does food waste impact sustainability?

Question 14: Are residues of the growth hormones used in cattle in our drinking water?

Question 15: Why is sustainability so difficult to define?

Question 16: Ecosystem Services — What are they and how do they relate to beef production?

Question 17: What are enteric methane emissions?

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Question 18: How does beef fit into a sustainable food system?


Question 19: How does productivity affect sustainability?

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Question 20: How does upcycling relate to beef production?


Question 21: Are U.S. cattle causing an increase in global warming?


Additional Resources 

View videos on how beef producers from different regions of the country (Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota) manage their operations day-to-day to be sustainable.

Beef Sustainability Facts Infographic

Explore this infographic to learn how sustainable beef production practices have efficiently met the growing food demand while also protecting the environment.

U.S. Cattle Production Sustainability Overview

This two-page executive summary puts into context the science supporting U.S. beef cattle sustainability, including greenhouse gas emissions, upcycling, and the ecosystem services to the country uniquely contributed by U.S. cattle.

Sustainability Life Cycle Assessment - Phase 2

The goals of this checkoff-funded study were to expand the original (phase 1) beef industry sustainability assessment to more accurately benchmark the eco-efficiency of the U.S. beef industry as part of an ongoing study of the U.S. beef industry. Phase 1 established a historical perspective of the eco-efficiency of the U.S. beef industry and considered specific on-farm data from the largest research farm in the U.S. combined with post-farm data that is representative of the entire U.S. beef industry. Phase 2 built upon the Phase 1 base case study for the year 2011 and includes refined data, additional datasets, and an expanded focus of the beef value chain, particularly in the case-ready, retail and restaurant sectors, for data that is representative of the period between 2011 and 2013. 

The U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Assessment: Phase 1 versus Phase 2 - Topic Brief

This Topic Brief provides an overview of the major specific changes or additions to the Phase 1 base case study that are reflected in the Phase 2 study.