Western Ranchers Launch Effort to Raise Climate-Smart Beef

January 3, 2023

The nation’s largest family ranching cooperative has launched a major initiative called Grazewell to test and adopt ambitious regenerative ranching practices on all of its 6.5 million acres across 11 western states by 2025.

“This is the way of the future,” said Dan Probert, a founding member of Country Natural Beef and 2nd generation cattle rancher in Oregon. “We know ranchers can be part of the climate solution while also supporting clean water and wildlife habitat. We’ve seen it and we’ve done it. Now we’re going to measure it, track it, and prove it. Climate-friendly beef is possible.”

Grazewell will:

  • Reduce the carbon intensity of beef production by 50-100% compared to conventionally-raised beef.
  • Sequester 1-4 metric tons of carbon per acre, per year according to a study done in 2020. On 6.5M acres, that’s 6-26 million metric tons carbon sequestered per year. This is equivalent to removing at least 1.3 billion gasoline-powered cars from the road for one year, or 6.6 billion pounds of coal not burned.
  • Provide more than $60 million in annual increased market returns for Grazewell-certified producers, with the ability to add more ranchers who choose to implement the program in the future.
  • Improve soil health and rangeland productivity, enhance habitat for fish and wildlife and conserve water – with more measurements to come on these fronts.

All beef production emits greenhouse gases. But with a few simple tweaks to how they manage cattle, ranchers adopting the Grazewell program show that those emissions can be reduced or offset.

  • A Grazewell ranch has cattle moving from pasture to pasture to give grass and soil a rest from grazing.
  • Native bunchgrasses can then recover, with plants regrowing and drawing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in the ground.
  • The result is healthier soil, and the healthier soil is proving to hold more carbon.
  • Grazewell ranches have a diversity of plants growing on them, which is good for cattle and wildlife.
  • Water is conserved and shared with plants, wildlife and people.
  • Ground cover is added, particularly native species, which helps store carbon, cool the ground, reduce runoff and improve wildlife habitat.
  • Unlike most beef ranching operations, Grazewell cattle, when finished, will be incorporated into a system where crops are also grown. Cattle will be finished in pastures that are also used for crop production. Then that area of pasture will be used for growing crops like corn, wheat and other crops used to feed the cattle.

CNB is working with multiple partners to help quantify and verify the climate and other environmental benefits of its practices. One partner – Sustainable Northwest – recently landed a $10 million grant from the USDA to measure regenerative ranching practices for Grazewell-certified producers.

“Country Natural Beef has always been a leader in regenerative ranching, but we’re thrilled with their new commitment to doing even better and measuring their progress via Grazewell,” said Dallas Hall Defrees, regenerative ranching program director for Sustainable Northwest. “Regenerative ranching can support healthy fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air and robust regional economies.”

As the first ranching cooperative of this size and scale, CNB is demonstrating how rancher-led regenerative ranching practices can benefit rangeland health while supplying consumers with high-quality products. The Grazewell program and branding is currently available to CNB members and will be available to more ranchers soon.

“I’m doing this for my grandkids. They deserve a healthy world, and ranchers are part of that solution,” Probert said.

Country Natural Beef is a cooperative with more than 100 members, operating on 6.5 million acres of rangeland in 11 western states, comprising the largest network of family ranches in the western United States. It was founded in Redmond, Ore. in 1987. Its members now include ranchers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

Source: Drovers