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Beef Producers Must Share TheirStories of Environmental Stewardship

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By John Ferry, Cattlemen’s Beef Board

My family has been farming and ranching outside of Corinne, Utah since 1900, which is 123 years when you do the math. 

Today, JY Ferry and Son, Inc. is a farming, feeding, ranching, wetlands and wildlife operation. My brother Ben, my son Joel and I jointly manage our land resources with a cooperative and sustainable approach. 

Holistic synergy

Holistic synergy is what we seek on a daily basis. 

We’ve always believed the land itself is the greatest resource any farming or ranching operation has. And, as a member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and co-chair of the Beef Checkoff’s Consumer Trust Committee, I know consumers are very concerned with beef’s environmental impact. 

As a beef producer, I also know I must do my part to let those consumers know how much we care about our land, our animals and our environmental responsibility.

Our property is literally where agriculture, wetlands and wildlife habitat proactively intersect. 

We farm and graze our cattle on a 150,000-acre footprint. Our cattle feed on phragmites, a locally invasive wetlands plant. The grazing in wetlands helps manage the plant’s population and prevents it from crowding out other beneficial plant life critical to wetland wildlife. 

The cows are eating these plants, which are inedible to humans and turning them into high-quality beef. 

Furthermore, the grazing strategy brings the phragmites spread under control without the use of expensive chemical sprays.

We’ve also taken numerous measures to improve water efficiency throughout our operation. We do everything we can to be sustainable – something people who buy all of their food at the supermarket don’t always have the opportunity to see. 

And, I’m certainly not the only beef producer who takes these types of measures.

Research and education

The checkoff-funded Meat Demand Monitor surveys 2,000 people monthly on their meat preferences and views. 

Taste, freshness, price and safety remain consumers’ most important considerations when purchasing proteins. And, while the climate-positive trend is a movement beef producers like me know all too well, these are the true factors consumers continue to find more important than beef’s environmental impact. 

Still, the Beef Checkoff is committed to providing education and correcting misinformation about beef and the environment while gaining consumers’ confidence.

The first step is investing in extensive, science-based research. The Beef Checkoff continuously funds third-party, objective research projects to prove the beef industry’s environmental responsibility. 

Through this research, we can provide science-validated sustainability indicators to benchmark the industry’s current status and provide a path forward toward continuous improvement. 

By taking an objective, scientific approach, this program helps create a sustainable beef product for a growing world population while also building consumer confidence in beef. 

From there, we try to stay ahead of issues impacting consumer perceptions through a two-pronged effort of education and outreach. 

Our ultimate goal is to connect and engage with people before false or misguided information about beef production practices spreads. Then, we can share the facts our research has uncovered. 

Here are just a few examples of what we’ve been doing to educate and inform others about beef production.

educational units 

By connecting with young minds in middle school and high school, the checkoff can educate tomorrow’s beef consumers today. 

Educational units focus specifically on greenhouse gasses and cattle, as well as general beef production and genetics.

Hosting on-the-farm events 

The Beef Checkoff funds annual science, technology, engineering and mathematics educator immersion events designed to bring inner city teachers to real, working farms to learn about beef production. 

In 2022, the educators who participated in the tour shared their experiences with more than 70,000 urban students.

New York City
Climate Week 

Beef was front and center in September 2022 during Climate Week, the largest global climate event. 

Checkoff-funded “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” hosted a webinar on beef being an ultimate climate-smart food and shared the truth behind emissions.

Collaborating with the
Beef Expert Network 

The 22 influencers who make up the checkoff’s Beef Expert Network are all passionate about sharing beef’s story and connecting with their audiences to address misinformation surrounding beef.  

Sharing information via digital campaigns 

Checkoff-funded digital campaigns on Connect TV, YouTube, websites and social platforms encourage consumers to “rethink the ranch.” Real beef producers share their beef stories and how they care for their cattle and land.

Speaking up

Most cattle operations are far removed from the mainstreams of today’s society. We producers are most comfortable on our ranches and farms doing what we do best, supporting our livelihoods and our families as we feed the world. 

But, as full-time environmentalists, we must speak up when it comes to topics like beef’s impact on land water and air. Unless we share our own true stories, others will control the narrative. 

First and foremost, we must take extreme care of our land and our cattle. Then, it’s our responsibility to tell others about our efforts. 

John Ferry is a member of CBB’s Beef and Promotion Research Board. He also operates a feedlot and farming business in Corinne, Utah and was recently honored as the national winner of the 2021 Environmental Stewardship Program Award. This opinion column was originally published on March 30.

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