Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, got the chance to visit with Kansas rancher and chairlady of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Debbie Lyons-Blythe, talking about individual’s roles in beef sustainability regardless of their place in the beef value chain.
“I think sustainability has been a conversation going on for a very long time,” Lyons-Blythe said. “It began as a very top-down from corporations pushing down regulations and expectations to cattle ranchers and I realized in some of the conversations that I have been a part of, that conversation wasn’t going to stop whether we were a part of it or not. I realized early on that if we were a part of it, maybe we can direct some of the information.”
In the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Lyons-Blythe said, producers make up more than half of the members and are involved in the entire decision-making process.
“I encourage everybody asking questions and trying to see for themselves to come to a meeting so they can see what we are up to,” Lyons-Blythe said. “The U.S. Roundtable gets to make their own decisions. We defined what sustainability is, we decided how we are going to measure it, and we also decided that we are going to measure it all along the value chain.”
The USRSB is not just taking about sustainability at the farm and ranch, Lyons-Blythe said, but also the part everyone along the value chain plays in making improvements that will impact beef sustainability.
“We have been working for a very long time deciding what we can measure,” Lyons-Blythe said. “Figuring out how we can truly communicate sustainability and what that really means. In our spring meeting we finally were able to roll out our industry-wide sustainability goals for the entire beef industry- the first of their kind.”
The sustainability goals for the entire beef industry, Lyons-Blythe said, have targets for every sector along the value chain including targets outside of the farm and ranch.
“A sustainable operation means that we take care of the land, we take care of the animals, we take care of the people, and we make money,” Lyons-Blythe said. “It doesn’t just mean legacy, it doesn’t just mean passing it on to our kids, but that has to be part of it, right. It also means that we are a viable business, and we are doing the right thing by the animals and the land. That is what is important and that’s what we aim to show.”
Online, the USRSB offers a self-assessment tool that introduces what sustainability can mean for an individual’s farm or ranch. This tool, Lyons-Blythe said, offers key factors to measure sustainability and provides self-assessments for different sectors outside of the farm and ranch such as a retail or food service.
“We don’t gather any of that information, so nothing is saved,” Lyons-Blythe said. “If you want to be able to compare it year to year, you have to be able to save that yourself, so we do not want to be the keeper of the data.”
The USRSB’s online self-assessment tool can be found at usrsb.org under the resources tab. To visit the self-assessment tool online, click here.
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