Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sustainability: What is it and Why is Important

Sustainability is a hot topic right now, both in mainstream media and also within the agricultural communities.

Well, what exactly is sustainability and why is it so important?

According to Wikipedia sustainability is the capacity to endure; it is how biological system remain diverse and productive indefinitely. The BEEF industry defines sustainability as meeting growing global demand by balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity and social diligence throughout the supply chain. My personal definition of sustainability our ability to efficiently and continuously produce enough quality product with the least impact on the environment.

So now that we have defined sustainability, why is so important?

Well, we are humans that live on this earth, and no matter where we live or what we do, we are going to have an impact on the environment. We need basic food, water and shelter just to survive. Environmental sustainability is really a journey to a unattainable goal. As much as we would love to have zero impact on the world around us, we also need to use our environment to survive. Sustainability becomes important so that we are able to maintain our environment and its resources so that it in turn can support our human needs.  However, there are many ways in which we can greatly reduce the impact that we do have on our environment.

Mainstream media has recently been pointing fingers at agriculture when it comes to bad sustainability practices to the point that it has been suggested to reduce or get rid of meat and animals agriculture all together. Sustainability is extremely important to us as farmers and ranchers and will always be. We certainly know that you have to take care of the resources that we are given or they will not return the favor. We get to see first hand how this works. Whether it be soil, water or animals they all need to be properly cared for or they will not produce a quality product that is beneficial to both us as farmers or us as consumers. However, we are always looking for new ways in which we can improve our practices, Science and technology, such as GMOs and GPS has allowed farming practices to be improved by leaps and bounds.
Photo Courtesy of Ask the Farmers

Just as farmers know that there are always room for improvement, there is also ways in which consumers can have a direct impact on improving sustainability. One simple way is by reducing food waste. Not only does that food sitting in a landfill directly impacts the environment, but also all of the resources used to produce that food are then wasted. Taking this thought back to the thought of animal agriculture. 24.3% of all edible beef produced is wasted at the consumer and retail level. That is A LOT!! Definitely a place for some much needed improvement.

Photo Courtesy of
Sarah Schultz,

As much as we all like to point fingers, there are ways in which we all, as consumers and farmers, can improve our habits and practices to reduce our impact on our environment. No one person, industry or practice can be to blame. So I challenge you as a farmer (if you are one) or as a consumer to take some action, and share with me how you can improve your personal sustainability on this earth.

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