On Wednesday, Cargill announced a new sustainability initiative to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of its North American beef supply chain. The Wayzata-based agriculture giant’s goal is a 30 percent reduction by 2030, from a 2017 baseline of per pound of product.
According to a company statement, the initiative—dubbed “BeefUp Sustainability”—aims to address the food and ag industry’s need to meet rising demand for protein to feed a growing population while also decreasing its negative impact on the environment.
“This initiative builds on the strong environmental stewardship work already led by farmers and ranchers,” said Jon Nash, leader of Cargill’s North American protein business. “Cargill is creating connections across the entire North American beef supply chain. Together, we can expand current sustainable agricultural practices to make a meaningful difference.”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, North America’s beef supply chain is already 35% more efficient in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than the global average.
Cargill hopes to help build on that progress by reducing its own supply chain footprint via four key focus areas: grazing management, feed production, innovation, and food waste reduction. The company plans to work closely with farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders to develop solutions for reducing one another’s impact.
The BeefUp initiative will incorporate many already-established Cargill practices and projects, like on-site visits with supply chain partners, producer panels, and its similar sustainability project in Canada (the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration).
It will also expand its partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to ramp up their collaborative Central Nebraska Irrigation Project, which aims to save 2.4 billion gallons of irrigation water over three years.
“We are committed to achieving a productive food system that improves water quality and wildlife habitat while reducing GHGs,” said Sasha Gennet, director of North America sustainable grazing lands strategy at TNC. “Leveraging Cargill’s network allows us to drive change at a meaningful scale.”
Outside of its work with TNC, Cargill’s BeefUp initiative also involves sponsoring the Yield Lab Institute’s Manure Innovation Challenge, which connects startups with established companies dedicated to creating solutions for getting more value out of manure-based nutrients.
“We’re working every day with farmers, ranchers, and supply chain partners to continue to serve as stewards of the earth while achieving greater business results and efficiencies,” said Nash. “We will only be successful if farmers and ranchers are successful.”
Cargill said its 30 percent by 2030 reduction goal would be the equivalent of removing 2 million cars from U.S. highways for a year.
“We know the time to act is now,” said Heather Tansey, sustainability lead for Cargill’s global animal nutrition and protein businesses, “and that agriculture can be part of the solution.”
Cargill is the latest Minnesota Fortune 500 company to step up its environmental sustainability commitment, with Best Buy and Target among those that have also announced new plans this year.