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organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, cattle, POI, PSI, beef producation


This is an exploratory study of "organic11 versus "sustainable" agriculture applied to fed cattle production. Two interrelated premises underlie the study. The paramount factors considered in current certification standards for organic beef production, in our judgment, are (1) protection of animal health and welfare and (2) production of a differentiated product intended to be conducive to consumer health and which, therefore, will command a price premium in the market. Second, we believe the concept of sustainability embraces concerns extending beyond those currently embodied in organic production standards. The theme of organic versus sustainable fed cattle production is examined through development and verification of two production indices: a Producer Organic Index (POI) and a Producer Sustainability Index (PSI). The POI reflects current production standards for organically certified beef. The PSI reflects a broader range of concerns, including long-term natural resource conservation and economic staying-power of cattle producers. Results of the study show there may be only a loose connection between current certification standards for organic beef production and conditions for sustainable beef production. Factors conducive to production of organic and sustainable beef production are identified. The methodology embodied in development of the producer indices can be used to provide insights to beef cattle extension specialists and individual cattle producers on strengths and weaknesses in current feedlot management practices.


Department of Economics, South Dakota State University

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