Hereford Cattle Society has become the first cattle society to work to prove its breed’s sustainable merits to the wider beef industry, retailers, food industry and the consumer.

Hereford cattle are known for their ability to grow and finish off grass.

With the environment becoming increasingly important for every stage of the beef supply chain, the society set out to cement some of the benefits of the breed.

Working with beef and sheep specialist Dr Liz Genever, members recorded the efficiency of breeding females and the environmental impact to confirm the benefits of Herefords when compared with industry averages.

The society, responsible for the registration of pedigree Hereford cattle in the UK, said nearly 2,000 cows were being assessed for fertility, calf survival and growth rates to weaning.

In addition, carbon audits were carried out to gauge the carbon footprint across its membership and commercial systems utilising the breed. Soil organic matter levels were also being taken into account, and the findings would be benchmarked against the industry to confirm the benefits Herefords bring to a system.

A review of genetic trends was also carried out with the aim of providing guidance for members who were performance recording on areas of focus to ensure the Hereford dam becomes even more suited to future beef production.

In conjunction with Dawn Meats, information was also being gathered from finishing suppliers who provide Hereford sired cattle for various retailers.

Phil Allman, chairman of Hereford Cattle Society, said it was undertaking a number of projects to pull evidence of sustainable production together.

He said that would help producers move to the next level, with the Hereford Times also supporting the industry with its #BackingHerefordshireFarming campaign.

“The society’s council is acutely aware of the shift in perception of eating beef and the environmental connotations which are now attached to red meat,” he said.

“In any sector, whether food or other, if a brand is not addressing its sustainability credentials in some way, it will be left behind as consumers’ priorities change.

As a society, we are not willing for that to happen to Hereford beef and are pleased to be able to work with Dr Liz Genever to put some hard-and-fast facts behind what we has known about the Hereford breed for decades.”

He added: “Sustainability is all about the planet but also profit and people. If we can prove Herefords and Hereford crosses are a more profitable animal due to an increased margin, this will give many producers the confidence they need to further invest in the breed.

“When it comes to people, the docile temperament of Herefords is undisputed, providing a safer working environment for stockmen and abattoirs.”

He said the Hereford was both prolific and efficient at turning forage into a high-quality source of protein, bringing human health benefits due to a higher level of omega-3 than cattle fed on concentrates.

A United Nations report, published in May, said reducing production of methane gas in cattle through switching feed and dealing with manure in different ways could cut emissions, linked to global warming.