/ ©: Adriano Gambarini / WWF-Brazil

Sustainable Beef

Beef is raised in some of the most fragile natural areas on Earth, such as the Amazon, Cerrado, Northern Great Plains, and Mekong among others. In those places it can have serious impacts on ecosystems. With demand for beef set to rise, the question is not how to stop the industry—but how to help it grow in a sustainable way.

A better alternative

The environmental degradation caused by poorly managed cattle production is well documented. But we also know that beef production—when sustainably managed—can benefit our environment.

For example, grazing can maintain the health of grasslands, and improve soil quality with manure. Beef production also provides social benefits, such as poverty alleviation and the promotion of community vibrancy.

Our approach

WWF envisions a world where all beef is grown in a way that is environmentally sustainable. By working with producers as well as companies and their supply chains to improve the sustainability of beef production, WWF is helping ensure that consumers have choices for a safe, affordable and sustainable diet.

Established in 2010 with support of WWF, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) brings together the biggest players in the industry to advance continous improvements in sustainability of the global beef supply through leadership, science and multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.  

WWF Targets

2020: 10% of global beef production will be certified sustainable.
 

Progress

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef was recently created.
► Read more about how WWF works with the beef industry

Better Production for a Living Planet

 / ©: WWF

Beef production isn’t going to decline. So we urgently need to improve how production takes places and how we use land.

Ruaraidh Petre, Regional Director at Solidaridad Southern Africa / Chair, Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef

CASE STUDY: Dealing with the effects of overgrazing

 / ©: WWF
This text is an excerpt from the WWF Publication Better Production for a Living Planet (2012).
© WWF
In Brazil, raising cattle is the single biggest threat to the Amazon rainforest.

Supported by WWF-Brazil and Embrapa Beef Cattle (part of the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture), rancher Thimoteo Lobreiro is tackling soil erosion and make his business more sustainable. 

At his farm in the Cerrado, Thimoteo grows microorganisms which, when sprayed on to fields, restore soil fertility. He also gives his grass a break and the chance to regenerate by regularly rotating cattle.

As a result, Thimoteo doesn’t have to spend so much on chemical fertilizer, weed killer, expensive seeds and cattle feed. So, while his productivity is higher, his costs are around 40% lower than on conventional ranches. His meat also tastes better.

And healthier soil means insects and birds are flourishing too.
 

READ FULL STORY

CONTEXT

Threats
  • Habitat conversion;
  • Overgrazing – decreased plant biodiversity, low residual plant cover and soil erosion;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Water and air pollution; Impacts from feed production (grass versus grain-fed);
  • Indigenous livelihoods tied to beef production.
Opportunities
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Conservation;
  • Improved food safety and nutrition.

Be part of the solution

► Companies, financial sector leaders, policy makers and NGOs are already working with WWF to become part of the solution to making beef sustainable. Join them in the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and do your part

► Eat smart – if you buy beef, buy sustainably-produced beef and let your retailer know that you prefer sustainably-produced beef. This will help catalyse action, inform the process and contribute to the development and uptake of standards and certification.

Priority Countries

  • Production
    USA, Brazil, EU, China, Australia, India

    Markets
    USA, Russia, Japan, EU

    Present Focal Regions
    Amazon, Cerrado, Chaco region of Paraguay and Argentina

Trends

  • Demand Drivers
    Income, population, consumption

    Future focus for success
    Continued work in Brazil, Australia and the USA – major producing countries – are of particular importance. India, which is projected to be the largest exporter of beef in 2012, and China, due to its increasing production and consumption of beef, are also important.

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