There’s beef that is organic, grass-fed, “made in USA.” Now there’s one more label claim consumers can ponder: “climate-friendly.”
Schweid & Sons, a New Jersey-based specialty meat purveyor, has begun selling Brazen Beef burgers, a Tyson product that it calls the first beef “to receive USDA approval for a climate friendly beef claim by demonstrating a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from pasture to production.”
Judging from the media stories and other reactions, it’s a controversial claim. Through a number of processes – careful selection of cows, feed that is grown using agricultural practices that help reduce GHG emissions, audits of ranchers, special diet at the feed lot and packaging – Tyson can demonstrate a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. There are audits all along the way.
Each cow burps about 220 lbs. of methane gas every year, according to University of California at Davis, contributing to global warming and climate change. USDA in 2021 launched a verification program that allows meat companies to label their product “low-carbon” if it meets certain environmentally conscious criteria. Tyson took up that challenge and appears to be the only meat processor using the “climate friendly” claim.
Cattle used for Brazen Beef products come from Tyson’s own Climate Smart Beef Program (they’re also grass-fed and part of Tyson’s Animal Welfare CARE Program). “Animals chosen for the program are raised with emissions reduction practices in mind,” the Brazen Beef (brazenmeats.com) website explains. “Before being fully accepted into the program, the emissions of each animal are evaluated to ensure they meet the base emissions and program qualifications.”
An exclusive agreement from Tyson gave Schweid & Sons the right to sell ground beef products, blends of chuck and brisket from the Brazen Beef program made into packaged burgers available only in Hannaford grocery stores in the northeast U.S. – “with other retailers in the pipeline to be announced at a future time.”
Tyson also promises “whole muscle cuts and co-branded Schweid & Sons Brazen Climate Friendly grinds later this year.”
In a lengthy email to Food Processing, Tyson explained:
“This journey was two years in the making. When we first started … to take on beef-related emissions in our value chain, we needed an in-depth understanding of how and where they arise. To do this, we engaged leading third-party researchers to help us develop a greenhouse gas accounting methodology for our climate-smart beef value chain.
“The outcome of this collaboration -- our Climate-Smart Beef Program and accounting framework -- models greenhouse gas emissions for cattle from pasture to production, focusing on emission sources from feed cultivation and processing, cow/calf ranches, stocker operations, and feedlots. To estimate emissions using the model, we input data collected and verified through third-party auditors such as Where Food Comes From, farm management data from feed producers and operational information provided by our suppliers.”
The program has its detractors, who claim the methodology is flawed, the auditing is slanted and that a 10% reduction in GHGs is insignificant. Tyson’s promotion of it has been muted.