Food labels can influence environmental impact on livestock: study

Food labels can influence environmental impact on livestock: study

By Chris Scott on 11/4/2014

Consumers are willing to pay more for meat products that are labeled and linked to a single, environmentally friendly production standard — like water conservation in beef production — according to a new study.

The study led by researchers at the Washington State University found that consumers who paid 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products could have an impactful influence on water conservation in livestock production. Based on the 26 billion pounds of American beef produced in 2013, researcher Robin White estimated that between 76 billion and 126 billion gallons of water could be saved each year as a result of such labels.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said White, who conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

She added that the areas where water conservation could be reduced in livestock production include improved pasture management and greater sustainability efforts. More effective labeling would also wind up covering the cost of such measures, which can increase costs for producers, said White.