Where’s the (Sustainable) Beef?

Jonathan Gelbard
2 min readNov 14, 2018

A Scientist’s Journey Advancing Beef Supply Chain Sustainability to Incentivize Conservation & Climate Change Solutions

Looking to the west on the Diamond A Ranch (formerly Gray Ranch), New Mexico, Fall 1995. Peloncillo and Chiracahua mountain ranges in the distance. Photo by Jonathan Gelbard

Grassland scientist, Dr. Jonathan Gelbard, of Conservation Value Solutions and Conservation Value Institute has been working for years to help define sustainable beef production and develop incentives for ranchers, farmers and other supply chain stakeholders. He was lead scientist for the Grasslands Alliance, which aims to “link ranchers and farmers who are using exemplary stewardship practices with the retailers, chefs and consumers who want to purchase more sustainable beef.”

In this series, Gelbard shares valuable insights — gained via consultations with diverse supply chain stakeholders — on how to advance sustainability in the beef sector.

Note: Parts I-IV of this series are cross-posted at Triple Pundit, now under new ownership. If any links to Parts I-IV (below) no longer work, please contact me and I’ll re-post them on Medium and update the below links.

Table of Contents

Part I: A Green Marketing “Wild West”: Greenwashing in the Beef Sector. What are general types of greenwash to look for in the beef sector?

Part II: What’s Really “Green” in the Confusing World of Beef Marketing Claims? Here are a few of the most common examples of greenwashing in beef marketing, and the reasons why the claims don’t hold water.

Part III: What’s Really ‘Green’? A Look at Beef Cattle Grazing Operations. Just because beef is “grassfed” doesn’t mean it’s sustainable…

Part IV: What’s Really ‘Green’? A Look at Beef Finishing on Feedlots. Evaluating feedlot sustainability encompasses impacts and solutions related to feed supply chains too.

Part V: What’s Really Green — A Look at Beef — How Can You Prove It? (i.e., Filter Out the Bull) A summary of the current certification/verification landscape for beef shows varied criteria for different labels.

Part VI: What’s Really “Sustainable” in the Confusing World of Beef, Part VI: Key Barriers to Increasing the U.S. Supply of Credibly More Sustainable Beef

Part VII: Increasing Demand for Credibly Regenerative (or at least More Sustainable) Beef: Key Barriers & Possible Solutions. Series conclusion: What’s really “sustainable” in the confusing world of beef Part VII.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Chris Wille, Matt Buck, Karen Lewotsky, Gabriel Krenza, and Marcia DeLonge for helpful reviews of one or more posts in this series.

Click here to explore more of Jonathan Gelbard’s work on ResearchGate.

The author pushing cows on the Diamond A Ranch, New Mexico (formerly Gray Ranch), Summer 1995.



Jonathan Gelbard

My life and work as a conservation scientist are inspired by a love of Nature. I dig deep to identify causes of problems, and catalyze transformative solutions.