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Food Systems of the Future

2022 Projects

Unveiling the Hidden Capitals of Cow-Calf Operations in Rangelands of the West

Beef livestock ranching is an important agricultural activity rooted in the history of the American West. Despite the long history and culture surrounding cattle and ranching in the West, recent times have left many cattle ranchers feeling under attack as media attention has highlighted potential environmental impacts of cows and health concerns around red meat. As these generalizations influence consumer perceptions around beef consumption, there is a need to employ a more robust understanding of beef livestock production as a complex socio-ecological system. While mainstream conversations around beef bring to light important concerns, they also leave much unexamined. To address this, ASU and CSU collaborated on a pilot study conducted with ranch partners in Arizona and Colorado. Using the True Cost Accounting (TCA) approach we implement a more holistic assessment that avoids broad generalizations of ranching as either good or bad. TCA is an approach that seeks to understand the broader, human, social, and ecological impacts of food systems activities to make better decisions about the food we produce and eat. We focus our work at the intersection of human, cattle, and rangeland; namely, the cow-calf supply chain, which is the primary stage of beef livestock production that relies on western rangeland. We use a combination of multiple qualitative and quantitative methodologies that complement each other. Results document the complexity of analyzing ranching in the West and provide monetary estimates that capture key benefits and costs in cattle production. Additionally, the findings in this report have allowed us insight into how different government policies support western ranching and rangeland conservation.

Grow Organic: The Climate, Health, and Economic Case for Expanding Organic Agriculture

Organic agriculture holds significant and largely untapped potential to address multiple crises facing our society, including climate change, health, and struggling economies. Public policies that support expansion of organic farming and ranching across America—including substantial investments in the next Farm Bill—can unlock this potential and deliver a critical triple win for our climate future, the health of farmworkers and consumers, and prosperity in farming communities.

Sustainability Ranking and Certification Systems in Higher Education Food Service

This report reviews and analyzes how ranking and certification systems have an impact on the sustainable food systems used by food service providers across higher education institutions (HEIs). This analysis includes a review of the most common metrics used in higher education sustainability ranking and certification systems, as well as how assessment guidelines are determined initially and amended over time. The positive, negative, and unintended consequences of these programs are also considered as we explore ways that these sustainability metrics can meet the challenges required for a sustainable future.

Agritourism in Hawai’i (coming soon…)

Our partner is the County of Hawai’i. Hawai’i farmers and food entrepreneurs have inconsistent rules for agritourism. Each county has its own rules for agritourism, which is a huge frustration for those seeking to make agritourism part of their business. In this project, the team is reviewing HI county rules, as well as best practices for agritourism globally. The project will deliver recommendations to policymakers on how to improve the situation.

Innovative Water Conservation (coming soon…)

Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture offers an innovative, voluntary water quality scheme where producers can get certified for enhancing water quality — MN Water Quality Certification Program.

The proposed capstone will review Minnesota’s model and look for other related water quality schemes across states. Through interviews with AZDA, research experts, and producers, students will envision if a similar model would benefit Arizona, and what localized adaptations may be a best fit.

2021 Projects

Meatless Monday Best Practices

Meatless Monday is an initiative that encourages actionable steps toward the reduction of meat consumption by asking participants to eat meat-free on Mondays. Such initiatives provide an opportunity to educate consumers on the health benefits of a plant-forward diet, the environmental impact of meat production, animal welfare issues, the innovation of non-meat proteins, and to engage stakeholders in gaining more control over their food choices. This report offers a summary of seven Meatless Monday initiatives throughout the U.S., highlighting best practices and notable challenges of implementing and maintaining such an initiative in three different contexts: local government, school systems, and non-profit or volunteer-led organizations.

Harnessing the Power of Digitalization to Advance Local and Regional Agriculture

This report investigates the big question: “How does digitalization of agriculture and agrifood systems affect local and regional food systems?” The report, produced for TMG Think Tank for Sustainability, examines the different challenges and opportunities in digitalization across the food system in the United States, using four focal areas: COVID-19, the digital divide, urban food systems, and data for ecosystem services.

Industrial Juicing to Advance Food Security

The Hawaiian Islands are highly reliant on imported foods for feeding residents and visitors alike. This is in part due to a shortage in food processing infrastructure locally that would contribute to Hawaiʻi’s ability to process much of its own food products. This study examines the feasibility of increasing food self-sufficiency in the islands through utilizing legacy industrial fruit processing equipment recently acquired by Olohana Foundation, a small 501(c)3 non-profit in Hawaiʻi. This study asks: How can the Olohana Foundation develop their aseptic juicing line to best support increased food self-sufficiency in the islands? Additionally, how can the juicing line be re-deployed in a manner to provide sustainable economic opportunity to producers and other community members?

The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture

The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture

Thirty years ago, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. The law established strict national standards for organic food and a public-private enforcement program to ensure compliance with the law. Today, the organic industry still faces a number of challenges. This report seeks to address some of these and to provide policy recommendations to better support the growing organic industry and its positive impacts on human health, on the economy, and on climate.

2020 Projects

Carbon Markets

With increasing climate impacts predicted across the globe, many see soil carbon storage and sequestration as an opportunity to reduce atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change. This report assesses the current opportunities for Minnesota agriculture and proposes solutions, policies, and management practices for these markets to benefit farmers and Minnesota’s agricultural sector.

Local Slaughter in the Hawaiian Islands

Cattle and livestock make up a significant portion of agricultural production value in Hawaiʻi. However, 95 percent of Hawaiʻi-raised cattle are shipped to the Continental United States for grain-finishing and slaughter. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of current ranching and slaughter capacities in Hawaiʻi, highlight relevant regulations and identify missing elements, offer case studies of similar operations and their procedures, and provide recommendations that Hōkūnui might consider in their pursuit to expand their slaughter capacity, while processing slaughter waste safely and sustainably.

NRCS in Arizona

EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to implement certain approved conservation practices. The program is available to producers through a competitive application process during which applications are ranked based on criteria developed by both the NRCS national headquarters and NRCS State Conservationists.This report assesses the barriers faced by ranching clients and potential clients of NRCS in Arizona and highlights opportunities for mitigating those challenges in the future especially through the implementation of the three key 2018 farm bill changes.

Organic Innovation

Organic continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States.This year marks 30 years since enactment of the Organic Foods Production Act.This report is a compilation of opportunities for organic innovation – it is an organic innovation catalogue – and deep dives on specific opportunities that may be of interest for the Organic Trade Association, or others, to pursue as distinct initiatives.

Interested in partnering with us?
Email Director of Strategic Initiatives, Suzanne Palmieri.