NewsMontana AG Network

Actions

Montana Ag Network: Low-emission cattle program introduced to Montana ranchers

Posted at 10:39 AM, Apr 03, 2023

VAUGHN - Tyson Foods is one of the four major meat packers in the United States.

It’s welcoming its new Brazen Beef Program, the first of its kind, a USDA-certified program to lower greenhouse emissions in cattle by 10%.

What Tyson says is a step in the right direction based on consumer demand.

In its research, it found that consumers are willing to pay at least 24% more for environmentally friendly sustainable options in retail.

This comes as consumers are worried about climate change and looking for eco-friendly brands.

Tyson also found that sustainably marketed products grow 2.7x faster in their categories than non-sustainable products.

“The new grazing beef program is the first climate-friendly beef USDA label program in the United States. We've been working on developing this supply chain for the last couple of years. We've announced the brand and so we're here. We're here now communicating the specifics of what the program is,” explain Chad Martin, Vice President of Cattle Procurement with Tyson Foods.

Martin was a presenter at the Western Livestock Auction in Vaughn, hosted by DeBruycker Charolais.

Growing up on a small, operated Texas ranch, Martin worked a cowherd with only his two grandparents. The best advice his grandfather could have given him was to go to college and get a degree and find a way to make the industry live on for the next generations.

He did just that and now is working on the new initiative with Tyson.

Tyson is building the capability to connect the value chain from the producer to the consumer. Climate-smart beef is beef with associated ESG claims that have been produced through sustainable supply chain interventions and tracked and verified through a digital tracking system (EID). The electronic tracking system will track data from birth to carcass, tracking almost every piece of information needed to create accurate readings for a cow. Tyson wrote in its presentation, “By investing in climate-smart beef in setting, customers can reduce Scope 3 beef emissions and with Tyson to bring climate-smart proteins to market.”

The perception that cow “farts” are destroying the environment will be debunked through this initiative.

“It's being able to verify and validate the practices that are in place to go against our baseline that we established to then determine through our accounting framework what the actual reduction is throughout the life cycle of the animal,” Martin added.

Reducing emissions through Brazen Beef will work towards customer targets for supply chain emissions, and sustainable interventions at each node of the beef value chain are required.

Beef Value Chain

  1. Feed Cultivation and Processing
  2. Cow-Calf Operations
  3. Stocker/Backgrounder Operations
  4. Finishing (Feedlots)
  5. Slaughter/Processing
  6. Packaging.

In Martin’s presentation, he offered frequently asked questions for producers.

FAQ: Why should a producer participate in the program?

  • It’s the future of the industry: A growing number of consumers are willing to pay a premium to eat beef and other foods with lower GHG emissions.
    • Consumers would be willing to pay at least 24% more for environmentally friendly sustainable options in retail.
  • Through the Brazen Beef Program, Tyson Foods is rewarding many producers for land stewardship practices.
  • This program is intended for the long-term viability of the beef industry and Tyson Foods is invested to support the entire process.

FAQ: What do producers have to do to participate?

  • Producers are required to be BeefCARE certified, and feedlots must be Progressive Beef certified. The requirements are as follows:
    • Enroll in a verified program that will document your programs and processes.
    • Agree not to sell the carbon rights to your grazing land and demonstrate land is not subject to other conservation grants.
    • Share relevant operational data with Tyson Foods.
    • Participate in on-farm audits conducted by Where Food Comes From.

FAQ: What would you tell a producer who is reluctant to embrace sustainability?

  • Many ranchers we speak with have already taken steps that align with some of the components of the Brazen platform because they are best practices for their own operations.
  • With an eye toward the future, we have an opportunity to ensure the longevity of the industry for generations to come.

With Tyson Foods being one of the four major packers, Chad Martin believes this program can help bridge a gap between producer and packer.

“This is not just a transaction. It's very relationship to be able to gather the appropriate data associated with the ranch, to be able to individually track the animal through. Then the value proposition of being able to share the data associated with the carcass quality feedlot closeouts all the way back to the rancher’s ranching family that raise the animal is very valuable to them for their decisions within their operation going forward.”

Abram Babcock the President of Adams Land & Cattle in Broken Bow, Nebraska is a participant in the program.

“Historically, in feedlots, we're worried about production data, right? How do cattle gain? How do cattle convert? How do they grade these other outcomes, like sustainability measurements like greenhouse gas and other things have probably been kind of secondary outcomes. I'd say what it's done is elevate some of these sustainability outcomes that consumers really care about and allowed us to just kind of focus and understand where we're at.”

With Tyson being a large corporation, it felt fitting to ask, if Tyson has a tight grasp on a producer’s operation, Babcock assured that the rancher is still at most of the risk in the program.

The only thing that Tyson controls is the beef that meets the sustainable requirements that go to slaughter through Tyson’s facilities. The beef that passes the requirements, is sent to the processing plant and is then labeled at the supermarket with the “Brazen Beef” marketing. The beef that doesn’t meet the requirement, cannot move through Tyson’s facility.

IMI Global is the sustainability expert through the program, handling the software and data and the regulations the beef needs to follow. IMI Global has three pillars it follows to ensure that the beef it’s working with remains true to the mission.

  • Animal Care
  • Environmental Stewardship
  • People and Community

Doug Stanton a Vice President with IMI Global says that cattle ranchers who are participating in other carbon credit programs, cannot participate in Brazen. The amount of acreage accounted for will not add up to the number of acreages available in the US.
The rigorous, yet attainable requirements for the Brazen Beef qualification under its CARE Certification.

“We're here to do this program. Prove to you that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you believe that's what's changing our climate, then this is what we're doing proactively to help that.” Stanton exclaimed.

Following the presentation to over 100 ranchers from throughout the Mountain West region, questions about current cattle’s ability to qualify, carbon credits, and added cost to producers who already trying, “gimmicks”.

According to Martin, data software, EIDs, and other material costs for the program will be fronted by Tyson.

Other questions couldn’t be answered and will need time to look up exact numbers after the fact.

One presenter on behalf of the Montana Cattleman’s Association challenged the presenters on the current numbers, based on his research that emissions from cattle are only 3%. They weren’t sure why this program was being introduced.

The questions were redirected based on the premise from the host, Brett DeBruycker who said, “If this works for your ranch, great. If it doesn’t work, that’s great too. We want to provide options for ranchers to adapt to changing times if you chose.”

Brazen Beef is in its infancy stages, but the program is launched and ready for inquiries.

The find out more information on the Brazen Beef Program visit, https://www.tysonfoods.com/ and contact them for information.

To see what Adams Land & Cattle is doing with its operation, visit https://www.adamslandandcattle.com/.

To get more information on what IMI Global is doing in its sustainable work area with Brazen Beef, visit https://www.imiglobal.com/.