By Bill Hudson

WAYZATA, Minn. (WCCO) – At the Wright County Fair in Howard Lake, area 4-H’ers are getting their prized cattle ready to show.

“I think everyone as consumers are concerned about the environment and sustainability,” said Karin Schaefer, executive director of the Minnesota Beef Council.

She says the industry has grown more efficient over the past 40 years, using 40% less feed, fuel and water to produce more meat. American beef growers produce 18% of the world’s supply with only 8% of the cattle.

Part of that formula for success is the animal’s rumen, part of its amazing four-compartment stomach.

“Which allows them to eat things we can’t. So they go out and eat very woody grasses and turn that into high-quality protein, which we enjoy as beef,” Schaefer said.

Unfortunately, that grassy diet makes cattle belch out large amounts of methane gas. Methane is a carbon emission that many in the scientific community blame for accelerating global climate change.

“We know what’s good for the environment can also be good for their business,” Cargill’s Heather Tansey said.

Agribusiness giant and Wayzata-based Cargill has a plan to slash those emissions and help achieve a more sustainable cattle industry.

“What we’re doing is committing through BeefUp Sustainability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with our North American beef supply chain by 30% per pound of production between now and 2030,” Tansey said.

It aims to achieve that goal by making row crop production more efficient, reducing food waste and better managing grazing practices to keep more carbon in the ground.

Scientists will also find innovative new ways to use additives that just might help beef cattle belch less.

As plant-based alternatives such as the Impossible Burger challenge the beef industry, Professor Jason Hill says Cargill’s plan is the right move for the environment.

“If we can reduce the emissions associated with beef production, that is a good thing,” Hill said.

“So far, we’ve had positive responses from our ranchers,” Tansey said.

Cargill says the reduction in methane will be the equivalent of removing 2 million cars from the nation’s highways over a year’s time.

Bill Hudson