Tyson becomes first in U.S. to verify sustainable cattle production

Company to source cattle from third-party sustainability verification program for ranchers.

September 10, 2020

3 Min Read
cattle drive in western U.S.
johnrandallalves/iStock/Getty Images

Tyson Foods announced this week that it is working to verify sustainable beef production practices on more than 5 million acres of cattle grazing land in the U.S. If realized, this would be the largest beef transparency program in the U.S. The effort is part of Tyson’s focus on sustainably feeding the world while taking care of people, the planet and animals.

Working with Where Food Comes From, the largest provider of certification and verification services to the food industry, Tyson will source cattle from BeefCARE-verified beef producers who are committed to raising cattle using practices that have a positive impact on the land and animals and who also want to promote it.

BeefCARE is a third-party sustainability verification program for cattle ranchers. The program uses third-party audits to verify that farmers and ranchers are using best practices in caring for animals, the environment and the people and communities who support them. BeefCARE standards include practices such as having a cattle grazing management plan to help promote vegetative growth and diversity, water availability and quality, prevent/reduce soil erosion and support carbon sequestration. More than 200 ranches are currently enrolled in the program, and plans are to expand the program over the next several years. The program is recognized by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

To ensure improved management of grasslands and rangelands, Tyson will also work with The Nature Conservancy to evaluate and enhance the environmental components of the current BeefCARE program. Nature Conservancy experts will provide input to Where Foods Comes From based on scientific analyses and land and livestock management experience.

“We recognize the importance of sustainable beef production practices that take care of people, the planet and animals,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “Our goal is to work with ranchers to verify and, when possible, improve those practices so that we can be transparent with our customers and consumers about how cattle in our supply chain are raised.”

Sasha Gennet, director of sustainable grazing lands for The Nature Conservancy in North America, said, “Sustainability is a business imperative in the U.S. beef industry to ensure long-term food production, economic security for ranchers and their communities and a healthy environment for us all. Tyson Foods is setting a great example of a company that is taking proactive steps to achieve a sustainable beef system that supports farmers and ranchers while improving our critical natural resources, including soil, water and wildlife.”

This latest initiative builds on Tyson's goal for beef sustainability. In 2018, Tyson became the first U.S. protein company to license Progressive Beef, a quality management system designed for cattle feeding operators who sell to companies like Tyson. Operators certified in the program follow best practices for animal welfare, food safety, responsible antibiotic use and environmental sustainability, and these practices are verified twice per year through U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved auditors. In 2020, Tyson will purchase more than 3 million Progressive Beef-certified cattle, which represents more than half of the cattle in the company’s supply chain.

Sustainability throughout the food system is fundamental to Tyson's core values, which call on the company to “strive to serve as stewards of the resources entrusted to us.” The company previously has set targets to improve land stewardship practices on 2 million acres of corn, partnered with the World Resources Institute to set science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets and is collaborating with the World Resources Institute to establish contextual water targets, which take into consideration the entire watershed at 11 priority locations.

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