Key cattle suppliers to Cargill's beef business will soon be asked to complete a questionnaire about their operating practices as Phase II of Cargill Cattle Feeder LLC beef cattle sustainability initiative launched last December.
Among the questions on the survey are: Are your employees Beef Quality Assurance (BQA animal care and handling) certified? How are you ensuring an adequate supply of water for your cattle? Do you have a grazing land management plan in place?
The yearlong effort to identify criteria, establish measurement metrics and define target improvement goals, is in collaboration with consulting and accounting firm K·Coe Isom, formerly Kennedy and Coe, LLC. This joint effort will create a verified beef supply chain sustainability assessment program for Cargill feed yards, as well as for the feedlots operated by Friona Industries that supply Cargill with cattle.
For this effort, K·Coe Isom is leveraging its extensive beef industry and sustainability expertise, as well as its proprietary ResourceMax assessment service. Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute is also providing technical support to the project. Based on the successful development of benchmarking and measurement criteria, this type of assessment could eventually be expanded to include cattle production in collaboration with stocker operators, ranchers, as well as with Cargill’s strategic feed yard partners.
Phase II kicked off in early July 2015, with an interactive informational and training session in Wichita with Cargill’s feeder cattle buyers. That workshop was followed by refinement of the cattle producer questionnaire and soliciting feedback from a pilot group of cattle producers to further refine the questionnaire. The next step will be to distribute the questionnaire more broadly, then analyze the results.
“The process we’re employing for our sustainability assessment allows us to build out our base of knowledge and information from phase-to-phase in a logical progression of steps so we ensure the efficacy of this initiative,” stated Todd Allen, president of Cargill Cattle Feeders, LLC. “It is important to us that this assessment be accurate, complete, credible and meaningful for vested stakeholders. It must also result in actions that are measureable and lead to continuous improvements as we move toward a more sustainable beef model.”
The assessment is examining the economic, environmental and community impacts of Cargill’s four feed yards in Texas, Kansas and Colorado. As a result of the initial phases, benchmarking will be established to support ongoing improvement that will be appropriate, meaningful, holistic and verified. Eventually, Cargill beef customers also will provide their sustainability criteria, resulting in a customized assessment report that gives each customer data to measure and document their organization’s supply chain sustainability progress.
“Now that we are eight months into this assessment, we have finalized the program metrics and are able to focus on gathering and analyzing feedback. The goal of this project remains as it was at the outset - to create a way for Cargill to assess critical factors important to its long-term sustainability that customers and stakeholders across the value chain find increasingly relevant,” said Sara Harper, K·Coe Isom’s director of sustainability and supply chain solutions. “This is a pioneering effort in transparency and collaboration that will help beef customers, consumers and those concerned about sustainability issues to better understand how the food they eat is produced and where it comes from.” The assessment should be completed late in the fourth quarter of calendar 2015.
Cargill is a founding member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and the U.S. and Canadian organizations emanating from that effort. “All of the research we gather from around the world tells us beef will continue to be an important, and increasing, form of protein to nourish people, and we want to do as much as possible to ensure that it is produced responsibly and sustainably, now and for future generations,” concluded Allen.