Authors and Affiliations: 

Argo Peepson *, Merit Mikk *, Karlheinz Knickel **

* Centre for Ecological Engineering
** Instituto de Ciências Agrárias e Ambientais Mediterrânicas (ICAAM) at Universidade de Évora; Centre for Rural Research (CRR) Trondheim; Institute for Rural Development Research (IfLS) Frankfurt/Main

Corresponding author: 
Argo Peepson

This paper will present the key findings of an in-depth case study on grass-fed beef chains in Estonia. Particular attention is paid to the private Liivimaa Lihaveis initiative that drives the whole chain approach for organic grass-fed beef, the related social and organisational innovations, and the contribution of the initiative to an enhanced provision of economic, environmental and social benefits. The case study was carried out in the EU funded Horizon 2020 project PEGASUS.

The grass-fed beef initiative unites NGO Liivimaa Lihaveis, two closely related private limited companies (processing, distribution) and more than 40 organic farms joined the state certified grass-fed beef quality scheme. The common goal of all actors involved is to collectively produce, process and market grass-fed beef. An important part of the strategy is promoting the consumption of grass-fed beef. Farms involved in the initiative have more than 6,000 beef cattle animals and they manage over 12,000 hectares of grasslands, of which about 3,000 hectares are semi-natural habitats of high nature value. An appropriate management of these permanent grasslands, and especially of the semi-natural habitats, is very important for maintaining biodiversity and for protection of landscape character and cultural heritage. All of this contributes to rural vitality.

The analysis focuses on exploring the interplay of market, governance, policies, collective action and learning which is particularly important in this case study. Key drivers and motivations, and limiting and enabling factors are identified jointly with stakeholders. A social-ecological-systems framework is used to better understand the connection with an enhanced provision of economic, environmental and social benefits.

Our analysis reveals that a smart combination of a market-oriented private initiative with carefully targeted public support measures is more effective and more cost-efficient than isolated measures. A key role plays consumers awareness and interest in grass-fed beef, and their willingness to pay a price premium. This provides the basis for the valorisation of those benefits that are normally considered non-market and the success and sustainability of the initiative.


1. Peepson A., Mikk M. 2016a. Socio-political, economic and institutional drivers. National Report Estonia. D3.1 PEGASUS Report. Project H2020 No 633814, 26 pp.

2. Peepson A., Mikk M. 2016b. Case study 'Grass-fed beef' (Estonia). D4.1 PEGASUS Report. Project H2020 No 633814, 18 pp.

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