Op-Ed by Steve Brooks, North Dakota Stockmen's Association President
More than a century ago, my great-great-grandfather, Claude Brooks, homesteaded the Slope County ranch where my family continues to operate today. The cattle industry has sustained our family for six generations, and it has sustained the environment since the beginning of time.
To me, sustainability means balancing environmental responsibility, social diligence and economic opportunity, all while meeting the demand for beef. Improving the sustainability of beef is important to stockmen everywhere who strive to continually improve how beef is raised.
I'm proud of the progress we've made. Recently, the industry completed a life cycle assessment – certified by NSF International – that provides benchmarks on economic, environmental and social contributions in the U.S. After two years of data collection and research, the beef community has proven it's on the right path with a 7 percent improvement in environmental and social sustainability from 2005 to 2011. The assessment also illustrated other milestones, like a 10 percent improvement in water quality; a 7 percent reduction in landfill contributions; a 3 percent reduction in water use; and a 2 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Cattle sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to GHG emissions. In reality, they contribute under 2 percent of the total emissions in the country, according to the EPA.
At the same time, cattle contribute a lot of good. They have the ability to utilize forages that are indigestible by humans and convert them into high-quality protein from land not suited for cultivation. That reduces soil erosion, enhances soil carbon storage and improves range quality.
On Earth Day and every day, ranchers work to improve the environment. It's how the Brooks' have made a living since 1905, and why Great-Great-Grandpa's dream for his family to live on the land is a reality.
Bowman, North Dakota
North Dakota Stockmen's Association President
(701) 523-6732 (cell) or (701) 523-5391 (home)