How The Standard Works

Principles, Criteria, Indicators and Guidance

The Grasslands Alliance standard is both a certification tool and a guide to good and continuously improving management of land, natural resources, and livestock on beef cattle grazing operations in the United States and Canada. The standard is anchored by the following principles:

  • Principle 1: Develop and implement an effective planning and management system.
  • Principle 2: Conserve wildlife habitats and biodiversity.
  • Principle 3: Conserve natural resources, with sub-principles covering:
    • Productivity and management of rangeland vegetation, pasture forage, and feed crops;
    • Soil conservation and soil health;
    • Water conservation and water quality;
    • Integrated pest management;
    • Nutrient management; and
    • Solid waste management.
  • Principle 4: Support improved livelihoods, well being, and safe and fair working conditions.
  • Principle 5: Promote healthy and humane treatment of animals.
  • Principle 6: Incentivize climate-smart ranching and farming (strategies for reducing carbon footprint and adapting to a changing climate).

Each principle has designated criteria (desired outcomes on the ground) for compliance, and each criterion includes objective indicators (forms of observation and documentation that verify whether desired outcomes have been achieved) that ensure consistent, meaningful audits. The Grasslands Alliance does not require producers to use particular practices to satisfy the criteria, so long as there is verifiable progress toward the outcome.

The Alliance is developing a guidance manual to enable producers to meet the criteria in a manner appropriate to their location, operation, and/or management style. It will include a menu of better management practices that reflects the latest and best scientific and practitioner recommendations for different regions and operation types, and will be continually updated as new approaches become commercially viable. This “outcomes-based” approach is designed to offer producers the flexibility they need to meet the standard in a way that works best for their particular circumstances.

Program Scope

The Grasslands Alliance standard supports certification and continuous improvement programs for U.S. and Canadian ranch and farm grazing operations. As the program gains momentum, we plan to add modules for grass-finished beef and bison operations, as well as for later phases of the beef supply chain.