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Funders asked us to explore beef sustainability. Here’s what we learned.

21 September 2018

There is a lot of new information about the health and environmental impacts of beef and dairy. Should we be vegan or paleo? Embrace the impossible burger, clean meat, or micro livestock? What about the importance of livestock for livelihoods, nutrition, climate and grasslands?

Last year Meridian Institute helped the Global Alliance for the Future of Food to answer these questions. In response, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation asked me to write an article on beef supply chains for a special edition of the World Development Journal.

Why ask a non-expert to weigh in on something as contentious as beef sustainability? Food security and climate change clash nowhere more clearly than here. Groups are struggling to agree on the problems and find potential solutions. Consumers are confused, awash in a sea of new information. The Moore Foundation saw value in someone who could listen to all sides and provide a big picture perspective. After exploring the options, my co-authors and I chose to focus on the Roundtables for Sustainable Beef.

Our research uncovered new insights on:

  • how beef roundtables are organizing themselves and making decisions
  • differences between strategies that focus on continuous improvement, verification, and certification in beef supply chains
  • how voluntary, market-driven approaches to sustainability gain political legitimacy

For those wanting to do a deeper dive, please see the full article: Pursuing Sustainability Through Multi-stakeholder Collaboration: A description of the governance, actions, and perceived impacts of the roundtables for sustainable beef.