In this study, the system thinking approach was used to explain the challenges of the beef value chain in Mashhad, Iran. Due to the complexity of the system and its dynamic nature, rich picture and CATWOE analysis were used to structure the problem. After structuring the problem, the relationships between the chain actors were drawn in the causal loop diagram. Then, the system archetypes were identified. Results showed that the dynamics of this value chain could be explained by limit to growth, fixes that fail and shifting the burden archetypes. The results indicated that the beef import policy has not been effective to regulate the domestic market. Also, it can be concluded that beef cattle production in Mashhad is largely dependent on sustainable supply of livestock feed. So, enhancing cattle production requires policy making to increase availability of livestock feed. Therefore, it is recommended to plan for increasing its production through changing irrigation system and using early maturing and drought-tolerant varieties of corn.
Value chain, beef, rich picture, causal loop diagram, system archetype.