Sustainability isn’t just for environmentalists anymore.
Cargill Cattle Feeders, Cargill’s feedlot subsidiary, has hired consultant Kennedy and Coe to help it set up a comprehensive system for measuring and improving the sustainability of its feedlots.
The feedlots, which bulk up cattle from adolescence to slaughter weight, are vast. Cargill’s operation in Leoti in western Kansas holds 100,000 to 120,000 cattle. The company has two more feedlots in Texas and one in Colorado.
Cargill Cattle Feeders, based in Wichita, and Kennedy and Coe, which has a sizable office in Wichita, will take roughly a year to figure out what are the best metrics to measure.
Todd Allen, president of Cargill Cattle Feeders, said that the company generally will look at the feedlots’ impact on the community – the employees and nearby residents; the environment, water usage and quality, waste, air; and the humane treatment of the animals themselves. It also will look at the economics – whether the feedlots are being run efficiently for the amount of resources consumed.
“The social, the environmental and the economic aspects, that is the three-legged stool you need to stand on if you want be around another 150 years, like Cargill has been around for the last 150 years.”
Allen said the push is coming, in part, from their customers, such as Kroger and Wal-Mart, that want to know how their beef has been raised. The Krogers and Wal-Marts of the world want to know because their shoppers want to know.
“The consuming public has more interest in their food source, how sustainable it is and what impact is has on the environment long-term, than ever before in history,” Allen said.
More broadly in producing this interest in sustainability are the trends: rising world population, growing wealth and demand for beef, and finite or shrinking resources to produce that beef, said Sara Harper, Kennedy and Coe’s director of sustainability and supply chain solutions.
Sustainability is no fad, she said, but a reaction to looking into the near-term future.
“It’s a huge challenge that all companies are grappling with,” Harper said. “Then layer in the weather and drought and water scarcity and the generational changes in the developing world in market preferences and consumer distrust of the food system. Sustainability is a catchall term to deal with all that.”