Cattle & the Environment

Ranchers are truly environmentalists at heart. As hardworking people who love working outdoors, no one cares for the land, water and air like beef producers. Environmental stewardship and best practices for green farming go hand-in-hand with managing a successful and long-term family business. 

Click here to learn about the environmental stewardship of a California ranching family.

Greener and More Efficient Beef Production
Today’s cattlemen are significantly more environmentally sustainable then they were 30 years ago. Today’s farmers and ranchers raise 31% more beef from 30% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today:

  • Produces 16% less carbon emissions
  • Uses 33% less land
  • Requires 12% less water

Cattle Raising and Air Quality
The United States cattle industry continues to be a model for the rest of the world in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, beef production accounts for only 2.8% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 26% for transportation.

Beef Production and Land Management
Land is critical to cattle operations and their environmental efficiency. According to the Economic Research Service of USDA, approximately 85% of all land is not suitable for agricultural crops. As a result, by grazing animals on this land, ranchers double the land area that can be used to produce food.

Environmental Stewardship
The beef industry honors leaders in conservation with an annual award. The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes farmers and ranchers who have successfully combined natural resource conservation efforts with good business practices. It also encourages the adoption of new environmental best practices across the entire industry. In the past decade years, three California ranchers have won this prestigious award.

In addition to the Environmental Stewardship Award, the Aldo Leopold Conservation Award is another environmental award given in many states. The Leopold Conservation Awards recognizes landowners actively committed to a land ethic. Working with prominent state conservation partners, Sand County Foundation presents the award, which consists of $10,000 and a Leopold crystal, in settings that showcase the landowners' achievements among their peers. To learn about this year’s winner from California, click here.

To learn more facts on cattle ranching and the environment, click here.