Low Carbon Beef seeks to serve producers and consumers with life cycle information on carbon from cattle

Colin Beal started Low Carbon Beef to add value to producers who produce cattle with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and to provide more information for consumers concerned about the environment.

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — In 2018, Colin Beal was working both in the cattle industry and as an engineer mapping life cycle assessments for clients — basically, looking at the environmental impacts of products throughout their life cycle.

Around that time, there were articles detailing the supposed harmful effects of cattle on the environment, and he heard of people giving up meat for environmental reasons. But he knew from his work both in cattle and on life cycle assessments that the whole story wasn't being told, he said during the Evolution Ag Summit in Jamestown, North Dakota , on Feb. 21. And he decided to do something about it.

A man in a cowboy hat sits on a stage with other people.
Colin Beal, the founder of Low Carbon Beef, spoke at the Evolution Ag Summit on Feb. 21, 2023, in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

"I started Low Carbon Beef as a way to add value to producers that are producing cattle with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, as well as provide more information for consumers that are concerned about the environmental impact of the beef that they're purchasing," he said.

Low Carbon Beef's website explains that the company analyzes and applies emission reducing tools throughout the cattle life cycle, quantifying carbon reductions. It is a U.S. Deparmtent of Agriculture Process Verified Program service provider, which means it is a verification service that offers applicants a unique way to market their products to customers using clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.

"We are a certification company, and we certify cattle that are raised with reduced greenhouse gas emissions," Beal said.


To do that, Low Carbon Beef looks at the life cycle of animals.

"So we use the lifecycle assessment to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions. And so we start with source
and age verification, and we're really certifying the animals, we're not certifying the raising locations," he said.

They trace the animals back to their birth and gather information about what they call the "Four F's": feed, fuel, fertilizer and function, referring to cattle performance .

"So that's going to include things like nitrogen fertilizer use, feed efficiency of the slaughtered calves and feed efficiency of the mama cows as well," he said.

Four people sit on a stage. A blonde woman in black is holding a microphone. Next to her is a man in a cowboy hat, a black-haired man in a suit and a man in a red and black plaid shirt.
The Evolution Ag Summit in Jamestown, North Dakota, on Feb. 21, 2023, featured a panel on carbon emissions in the supply chain. From left are Nikki Zahradka of Anheuser-Busch, Colin Beal of Low Carbon Beef, Kent Hall of CHS and Jake Joraanstad of Bushel.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

Beal explained to the crowd at Evolution Ag that there isn't any one method of cattle production that is low carbon. For instance, grass-finished cattle do not necessarily produce less emissions than grain-finished cattle. And cattle that are implanted do not qualify for "natural" labels, but they aren't disqualified from low carbon programs, because the implants can speed up finishing so that the animals produce less emissions in their lifetime.

Low Carbon Beef is the lead partner in a USDA pilot program that is part of the department's Partnership for Climate-Smart Commodities. The purpose of the project, according to USDA, is "to implement climate-smart methods in beef production, reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions and generating carbon credit revenue for producers."

The project has a funding ceiling of $10 million. Other partners involved are ABS Global, Where Food Comes From Inc., AgSpire and Millborn Seeds Inc., Tiffany Cattle Co. Inc., Missouri Prime Beef Packers, Alga Biosciences, Vytelle USA, Elanco Animal Health Inc., and Helical Solar Solutions LLC.

Low Carbon Beef has started enrolling cattle into its programs, not all of which are tied to the USDA funding.


"We are looking for more all the time and including finding some that can participate in the Climate-Smart Commodities project," Beal said. Producers who want to know more should visit

Low Carbon Beef recently was acquired by Select Sires, and the company's scope is growing.

"We'll be operating under a new company that's called Low Carbon Technologies and potentially expanding into the dairy space as well," Beal said.

Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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