BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE MEAT INDUSTRY FROM THE GROUND UP: THE ANALYSIS OF FRESH CHARACTERISTICS OF VACUUM PACKAGED GROUND BEEF, CHICKEN, AND PORK AND THE IMPACT OF AGRICULTURE LEADERSHIP PROGRAMS USING RIPPLE EFFECTS MAPPING
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
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Sustainability has been a popular topic among many industries in recent years, and agriculture is no exception. Commonly referred to as a three-legged stool, sustainability stands upon legs of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. For agriculture to be a sustainable industry, each of the three legs must be sustainable themselves. The meat industry could address each of the sustainability legs throughout different areas of the industry. Economic and environmental sustainability can be addressed through the prevention of food waste due to spoilage. The issue of food waste is both an economic and environmental problem due to the wasted monetary input to produce unused goods, along with wasted materials. Food waste, that occurs due to spoilage, can be prevented by new packaging technologies that use thermo-formed vacuum packaging to extend shelf life. Using thermo-formed vacuum packaging on three different ground proteins (beef, pork, and chicken), the first study examined fresh characteristics of ground meats during a 45-day simulated retail display. Results presented indicate that the use of thermoforming vacuum packaging can be used to extend the shelf life of ground proteins, reducing food waste, and supporting economic and environmental sustainability. In the meat industry, social sustainability can be best achieved through the creation of leaders and advocates for the beef community. A second study evaluated impacts of the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program (YCLP), which trains future generations of leaders in agriculture. Its effectiveness was assessed with a mixed-methods survey using Ripple Effects Mapping. Based upon descriptive statistics, results indicate that the YCLP program enhanced participant knowledge and catalyzed multiple community engagement. Results indicated that YCLP promotes social and organizational sustainability, leading to a more sustainable beef industry.