What constitutes a sustainable food system? Today, Dr. Sara Place talks about animal agriculture in a sustainable food system. She also shares how a small farm girl became a holistic animal scientist.
“When it comes to sustainability, we need to think about the entire food system, not just the environmental footprints of individual foods. I encourage people to dig deeper into discussions of sustainable nutrition. Sometimes the conversation stops at the first level (the carbon footprint of food X is lower than food Y; therefore, eat X not Y), but the social aspect of sustainability is critical and often ignored. Does advice to purchase one type of food or product meet someone’s budget, preferences, food culture, etc.?” – Dr. Sara Place
Dr. Sara Place – Working at NCBA
Sara has been with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) for a year and a half now. In line with her job, she focuses on the environmental impacts and sustainability of livestock production systems.
At NCBA, she heads the sustainability research program funded by the Beef Checkoff. They look at bench-marking for most of the US beef industry and the life cycle of beef. They also conduct studies on how the present state of the US beef industry may be bettered.
An Origin Story
Sara grew up in a 70-cow dairy farm owned by her parents in the small town of Oxford, New York. As expected, her childhood ultimately influenced the track she took for her studies.
Before taking on her role at NCBA, she was an Assistant Professor at Oklahoma State University. Back then, she taught a wide array of classes from animal nutrition to daily production science. She also did research focused on developing different systems to measure greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane from cattle or cow gas.
On the Subject of Sustainability
Sustainability can be defined in many ways. According to the UN, it is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“It’s about making sure that we do right by everybody today but also make sure that the future is going to be bright for people as well.” – Dr. Sara Place on sustainability
Most people acknowledge that sustainability is a long-term focus. But another component that comes into play is that sustainability cuts across a few different domains. These domains include the environment, social issues, and economic issues.
Listen to the episode to hear more key points about the role ruminants play in our food system, the environmental impacts of beef, and how agriculture in the U.S. has changed over time.
Sara Place, Ph.D., is Senior Director of Sustainable Beef Production Research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). As an animal scientist, she focuses on the environmental impacts and sustainability of livestock production systems. She shares some key points about the role ruminants play in our food system (particularly, the costs and benefits — e.g., upcycling vs. carbon footprints), and how environmental impacts of beef, and really all agriculture in the U.S., have declined over time.
Prior to NCBA, Dr. Place was on the faculty at Oklahoma State in the Department of Animal Science as an Assistant Professor with teaching and research appointment. Prior to that, she was a fellow of Dairy Management Inc. She grew up on a dairy farm in Upstate NY, and her family is still directly involved in production agriculture (crop production, dairy farming — both cows and goats!).
Resources on beef sustainability:
- Raising Beef
- Beef Sustainability
- Twitter: @Beef
- Facebook: @BeefItsWhatsForDinner
- Instagram: @beefitswhatsfordinner
Sound Bites podcasts and blog posts related to this topic:
Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Beef: What’s the Difference? – blog interview with Amy Myrdal Miller
The Surprising Truth about Sustainable Agriculture with Jack Bobo – Sound Bites Podcast Episode 43
Talking Trash (Food Waste) with Dr. Joan Salge Blake – Sound Bites Podcast Episode 103
Sound Bites is collaborating with Today’s Dietitian! Stay tuned for updates on the podcast, blog, and newsletter!
Save the Date! Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium 2019 is in Scottsdale, Arizona May 19-22!
Music by Dave Birk
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