Black cattle grazing in eastern Montana. Tyson Foods, which buys black-hided cattle through its feedlots, started a new BeefCARE program.

Kevin Hueser, vice president of Beef Margin Management with Tyson Foods, recently explained the recent BeefCARE program. Tyson is the first U.S. food company to verify sustainable cattle production practices at scale.

Hueser, who grew up on a farm in Iowa and has been with Tyson Foods since 1984, now lives in South Dakota.

“Three years ago, we partnered with folks at Progressive Beef to grow out a feedlot program, which was put together by Beef Marketing Group in Kansas to provide continuity, as well as to address concerns about animal well-being, environment and food safety,” Hueser said. “The result was BeefCARE, which is the only one of its kind in the industry and is third-party audited.”

As of Sept. 1, more than 200 ranches in 25 states have enrolled in the BeefCARE program through the third-party verifier Where Food Comes From, Inc., according to a Tyson Food press release.

“Where Food Comes From, Inc., was doing ranch audits and part of what they recognized was food sustainability was becoming a larger topic at the consumer level and retail food service level,” he said.

Tyson Foods is working on verifying sustainable beef production practices on its producers’ cattle grazing land in the U.S.

The program uses third-party audits to verify that farmers and ranchers are using the best practices in caring for animals, the environment, and the people and communities who support them. BeefCARE standards include practices such as having a cattle grazing management plan to help promote vegetative growth and diversity, water availability and quality, prevent/reduce soil erosion, and support carbon sequestration.

“To our knowledge, there are no other third-party verified sustainability programs for beef,” Hueser said. “We do not do BeefCARE as a requirement, but it does protect the beef brand and tells the story of our supply chain and the great things that we do.”

Hueser said those who do not agree with animal ag have louder and “more emotional” voices, and BeefCARE programs help with that with the public.

Laura Wright, director of sustainable ag proteins at Where Food Comes From, Inc., in Centerville, S.D., gave an overview of the program. She said they have a producer advisory board to make sure they are grounded in sound science.

“BeefCARE started in January 2020, so it is fresh and new. It was designed to help ranchers and beef producers tell their story as it relates to beef care, environmental stewardship and the safety and well being of the workers on the ranch,” Wright said. “There is a need for a way to verify to those who don’t have their boots on the ground and are not involved in animal ag.”