Â© 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. Livestock grazing covers half of Australia and vast areas of global terrestrial ecosystems. The sustainability of the beef cattle industries are being scrutinised amid ongoing environmental concerns. In response, industry discourse has identified public trust as critical to avoiding reactive environmental regulation. However, public perceptions of the cattle industry's sustainability performance and trust are largely unknown and speculative. We present the first model of public attitudes toward the Australian cattle industry (n = 2913). Our results reveal that societal perceptions of the industry's environmental performance strongly predict trust in the industry. However, trust only weakly predicts a perceived right for societal oversight and has only an indirect relationship on need for environmental regulation. Environmental values influence perceptions of industry performance and the perceived right for societal oversight. We conclude that effective industry governance must be values literate and recognise that strong environmental performance is critical for public trust. Public trust is high but does not translate to support for a relaxed regulatory environment.