What's in the news right now about the environmentally sound, socially responsible and
economically viable
beef value chain.




Dear GRSB Member, 

From Ruaraidh Petre
Executive Director Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

Firstly we would like to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2014, and welcome you to the first edition of GRSB Connect for the year.

We are looking forward to a busy year with our second global conference in Brazil in August, and all the work relating to the definition of sustainable beef leading up to that. The latest draft of our Principles and Criteria has been sent to a panel of experts from outside GRSB and their first comments and reactions are already coming in.

You'll notice that there are several themed articles here on the subject of emissions. Reactions to these are always welcome - we are not taking a position by publishing them, but reporting what comes to us through news alerts and members, and it so happened that in the week between Christmas and New Year this seemed to be a hot topic. We always welcome articles that shed further light on such subjects and contribute to all of our knowledge on a given topic. Feel free to share articles and news releases with us that you feel are relevant to our membership.


Roundtable Updates

Global Study Shows Varied Impacts of Farm Animals on Environment

In the last GRSB Connect, we introduced the PNAS article by Herrero et al: Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas ... (PDF) emissions from global livestock systems. Reading the article you will note the enormous range of emission intensities for beef and milk, and the huge gains that can be made in closing the efficiency gap between the developing world and more developed systems. This highlights the relevance of a global roundtable and the need for our activities and support in developing countries.

More on livestock emissions:

Agriculture and Livestock Remain Major Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Source: Environmental News Network

Global greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector totaled 4.69 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), an increase of 13 percent over 1990 emissions. By comparison, global CO2 emissions from transport totaled 6.76 billion tons that year, and emissions from electricity and heat production reached 12.48 billion tons, according to Worldwatch Institute's Vital Signs Online service.

Should Livestock Numbers be Reduced to Curb Climate Change?

Dateline: 12/24/13, Source: The Cattle Site

While climate change negotiators struggle to agree on ways to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they have paid inadequate attention to other greenhouse gases associated with livestock, according to an analysis by an international research team. A reduction in non-CO2 greenhouse gases will be required to abate climate change, the researchers said. Cutting releases of methane and nitrous oxide, two gases that pound-for-pound trap more heat than does CO2, should be considered alongside the challenge of reducing fossil fuel use.

The researchers' analysis, "Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy," is being published today as an opinion commentary in Nature Climate Change, a professional journal.

Farmers Fight Cow Farts to Protect the Climate
Dateline: Best of 2013, Source: DW.de

Gas emissions from flatulent, belching cows contribute to global warming. In an effort to protect the climate, French farmers are giving their herds feed that will reduce how often the animals belch and break wind.

Grass-fed cattle and other ruminants like sheep and goats release methane (CH4) as a result of their slow digestive process. When they belch and fart, they release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that gets far less attention than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a contributor to global warming.

Member News

Exclusive: Inside McDonald's Quest for Sustainable Beef
Dateline: 01/07/13, Source: GreenBiz.com by Joel Makower
Part 1 of a three-part series running this week in GreenBiz.com: Today, McDonald's announces that it will begin purchasing verified sustainable beef in 2016, the first step on a quest to purchase sustainable beef for all of its burgers worldwide.

Behind McDonald's lofty ambitions is a complex story that has been unfolding over the past several years. It involves engaging the global beef industry, from ranchers and feedlots to restaurants and supermarkets, as well as environmental groups, academics and the McDonald's senior executive team.

I watched the story unfold for much of 2013 and recently interviewed nearly a dozen McDonald's executives, one of the company's largest beef suppliers and its principal NGO partner on this initiative, along with other industry experts. The story is remarkable not just because of its scope and scale, but also as a case study on what it takes to nudge a large and entrenched industry toward sustainability in today's global marketplace. (Sustainable beef will be the topic of a plenary panel at our upcoming GreenBiz Forum, featuring several people in this article.)

"Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef," said Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president, global sustainability. "We have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task," he told me during a November visit to the company's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

Langert says McDonald's isn't yet ready to commit to a specific quantity it would purchase in 2016, or when it might achieve its "aspirational goal" of buying 100 percent of its beef from "verified sustainable sources." (The company only will say, "We will focus on increasing the annual amount each year.") Realistically, it could take a decade or more to achieve the 100-percent goal.

Brazil's JBS Agrees to Buy Massa Leve for BRL260 Million
Dateline: 12/23/13, Source: Wall Street Journal

JBS SA (JBSAY, JBSS3.BR), the world's leading beef producer, said Monday that it agreed to buy a Brazilian pasta maker for 260 million Brazilian reais ($110 million), part of which will be paid for with the meatpacker's shares. JBS signed an agreement to buy Comercio e Industria de Massas Alimenticias Massa Leve Ltda., a maker of pasta and of fresh and frozen foods based in the state of Sao Paulo. JBS said it will pay out BRL200 million in the form of JBS shares it currently holds. After a string of high-profile acquisitions in recent years, JBS is now focusing on integrating its businesses and cutting back on debt, Chief Executive Wesley Batista said in an interview last month.

In the News

Recently Announced Antibiotics Rule Means Little to Beef Producers Because They Took it Out of Feed, Water Years Ago
Dateline: 12/28/13, Source: Kearney Hub

No Big Change: Most feed additive uses of antibiotics for beef production ended years ago, partly because their value for animal growth and feed efficiency wasn't supported by scientific studies, and also because of a growing concern that they contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Cattle industry leaders say a Dec. 11 Food and Drug Administration announcement asking animal pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily change labels on the use of antibiotics important to human health will have little effect on beef producers.

Within three years, FDA officials want language removed related to food production, such as indicating that antibiotics in feed or water. Antibiotic use would continue for appropriate medicinal purposes, but must include veterinary oversight.

Most cattle feeders stopped using antibiotics in feed and water years ago, said Nebraska Cattlemen Executive Vice President Pete McClymont, and they already consult with veterinarians on the drugs' medical use. "I see it as a positive thing," he said about the FDA directive, because it’s one less target issue for groups that are against livestock production.

Red Meat's China Challenge
Dateline: 12/23/13, Source:The Land Newspaper

The colossal growth of Australia's red meat exports to China in 2013 has given the industry a foothold on the world's most promising food market, Meat and Livestock Australia's Andrew Simpson says, but further growth will have to be fought for.

In beef, the record-smashing volumes that Australia has shipped to China during 2013 are something of a free kick, made in the absence of official imports from the United States and Brazil. US and Brazilian beef has been banned over BSE concerns, and America's use of beta agonists growth enhancers is an additional trade barrier. But Mr Simpson, MLA's South East Asia and Greater China Regional manager, thinks that one or both of these major competitors are likely to renegotiate access in 2014, changing the playing field for Australia.

Strong Calf Demand Leads to End-of-the-Year Price Rally
Dateline: 12/23/13, Source: CattleNetwork.com, by Mary Soukup

With most auctions taking a two-week break due to Christmas and New Year’s falling on Wednesday, calf markets were hot last week as it was one of the last chances for farmer feeders and backgrounders to invest in cattle before the end of the year according to USDA Market News Reporter Corbitt Wall.

Unlike most years before a long holiday break when prices taper, calf demand was strong last week leading to a rally in prices. Compared to last week, steer calves weighing less than 500 pounds sold 5.00-10.00 higher and heifers under 500 pounds were 2.00 to 5.00 higher. According to USDA Market news, feed prices are likely locked-in until spring and unless the industry has a reason to believe the fed cattle market will change significantly, heavier feeders should remain fairly steady.

Wall says lightweight calves hold more promise to be profitable, however, because of there is a larger pool of prospective owners “willing to take a chance and see if they can grow them more efficiently than the next guy.”

Beef Industry Resolutions for the New Year
Dateline: 12/30/13, Source: Ohio State University Extension, by John F. Grimes

As we enter the year 2014, I am sure many of you have established personal or business-related goals for the coming year. I know the whole New Year's Resolutions issue can be very exciting to some as we set such lofty goals as weight loss, regular church attendance, increasing charitable donations, and generally being a better person.

When we reach the end of a given year, our frustration level grows significantly as we realize that we didn't reach those optimistic targets. Do you remember the goals that you set 12 months ago? Every business needs to set aggressive goals for improvement to remain competitive and profitable in today's challenging economy. This is especially true for the beef industry in the United States. While price prospects for most segments of the beef cattle industry look promising for 2014, we can't afford to become complacent and be satisfied with the "status quo."

The following are New Year's Resolutions for the Beef Industry in 2014.
1. Increasing the supply of beef cattle in the United States.
2. Improve the quality of our product in the eyes of the consumer.
3. More efficient use of forages.
4. Improving facilities.
5. Speak out and defend our honor.



To read the entire source article, please click on the link in the article headline.



How an Animal Growth Promoter is Affecting Overseas Trade
Dateline: 12/22/13, Source: The Gazette by Peggy Lowe

So I got my serious #agnerd geek on this month in looking at the continuing story in the beef industry about using a controversial growth promoter to bulk up cattle.

I've been watching this story since Tyson, one of the top four beef producers in the U.S., announced it would no longer be buying cattle treated with Zilmax, a drug that can add another 30 pounds on an animal just before slaughter. Other companies soon followed — all citing scattered reports of animal welfare issues. Cattle treated with the drug became lame and lethargic, and there were problems at the packing houses.

The drug's maker, Merck Animal Health, pulled the drug and is now auditing its use. So during a visit to Colorado, I stopped at Ordway Feedyard and talked to manager Tyler Karney. He runs an enormous feedlot out on the eastern plains — some 6,500 Holsteins on 2,000 acres. My story about Tyler's use of Zilmax is HERE.

Price Differential Report Will Not Gather Dust
Dateline: 12/23/13, Source: Farming Life

Livestock and Meat Commission chief executive Ian Stevenson has said that the report, researching the price differential in beef prices between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which was launched earlier this week, should be regarded as a working document for the redmeat industry as a whole.

"It is significant that everyone involved within the industry recognises the validity and wholly independent nature of the work undertaken by Oxford Economics. The final report contains a number of recommendations, which must constitute action points for the redmeat sector.

"Yes there are issues such as currency, the cost of exporting finished product across the Irish Sea and local electricity prices over which we have no control. However, farmers and processors can join together to ensure that the cattle we are breeding and finishing meet market specifications more comprehensively."

Grass-Fed Beef Business Growing in Petaluma
Dateline: Source: Petaluma Argus Courier

If statistics are to be trusted, beef will be a common choice at many Christmas dinners next week. As the most popular meat in the United States, the average adult consumes 65-pounds of beef each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But the beef industry is in flux.

Just this past week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started taking steps to phase out the use of antibiotics in animals processed for meat, a long standing practice in the mainstream meat industry used to promote growth in animals. It's an issue that's less of a concern here in Petaluma, which is home to a variety of sources of grass–fed beef–cattle that are not treated with antibiotics, artificial hormones or growth stimulants. Instead of the standard corn–fed diets, these cattle graze on fields in Sonoma and Marin county, mostly at family farms such as Chileno Valley Ranch.

Scottish Meat Industry Faces Supply Challenge
Dateline: 12/24/13, Source: GlobalMeatNews.com

Market dynamics will have to change if the Scottish red meat processing sector is going to survive and thrive into the future, meat leaders have warned. Alan McNaughton, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), said the tight supply and high prices were stifling opportunities for the Scottish meat industry, particularly on the export market.

"The potential for growth and development for our industry is enormous, with strong export opportunities emerging on a regular basis," he said. "However, extremely tight livestock supplies and a sharp rise in cattle prices in recent months are having a limiting effect on business development, with the likelihood that similar pressures will carry over into next year."

The market situation has to change to allow the sector to move forward, he added.

Idaho Beef Summit Scheduled for January
Dateline: 12/24/13, Source: Prairie Star

Beef producers can learn ways to improve the quality, consistency, and value of their product at the upcoming Idaho Beef Summit, sponsored by the Idaho Beef Council. The Idaho Beef Summit will feature speakers, hands–on workshops, and tours focusing on beef end product quality.

Producers will have the opportunity to lean the "meat" side of the beef industry, according to UI Extension Educator Sarah Baker.

China May Approve US Beef, Following Chicken Deal
Dateline: 12/25/13, Source: The Epoch Times

China may soon be open to U.S. beef imports, officials announced after a Dec. 20 meeting of the U.S.–China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade. The deal has been years in the making, and experts said it was part of a tradeoff to open the United States to Chinese chicken imports. The move comes after the USDA approved China to process chickens for the U.S. market in August.

Audits are also underway that may approve China to raise and slaughter chickens for sale in the United States.

South Dakota Rancher Recounts the Lessons Of Winter Storm Atlas
Dateline: 12/26/13, Source: Beef Magazine

There are certain moments in the beef industry's history that U.S. cattle producers aren't likely to forget anytime soon. For instance, December brings back memories for me of the "cow that stole Christmas." This, of course, refers to the first case of BSE in the U.S. in 2003. Meanwhile, April 2012 will always remind me of when the industry was "pink-slimed." And, after this past fall, when I think of 2013, I'll probably reminisce about the freakish winter storm called Atlas that hit my home state of South Dakota in early October.

The early fall blizzard dumped up to 5 ft. of snow driven by 70–mph wind gusts in some areas. Impacted was western South Dakota and parts of adjoining states. Tens of thousands of cattle, sheep, horses and bison perished in the freak storm, with its total cost projected to amount to $1 billion.

Thankfully and heroically, individual producers and organizations across the country generously opened their hearts to help those affected by the devastating storm.

Beef Symposium to Help Industry Turn the Corner to Recovery from Drought
Dateline: 12/30/13, Source: The Eagle

The Southwest Beef Symposium, jointly hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, is set for Jan. 9–10 at the Clayton Civic Center, 124 N. Front St. in Clayton, N.M. "This is the 10th year of the Southwest Beef Symposium," said Ted McCollum, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist in Amarillo. "We continue to address issues of concern to the industry at large, but also at the ranch level.

"This year we are focusing on aspects as the industry hopefully turns a corner and begins to stabilize the national cow inventory and as the weather hopefully turns a corner and allows ranchers to continue the recovery from the drought conditions of the past few years," McCollum said.

Cattle Struck by Mystery Disease
Dateline: 12/31/13, Source: The Rural.com/au

Cattle in western New South Wales are dying in mysterious circumstances. A recurrence of a mysterious fatal disease affecting cattle in the Hay district and elsewhere has put the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on a war footing.

The disease, which first hit stock in the Western Division in 2006 before striking again toward the end of 2009, has DPI experts baffled with an investigation now in the hands of the department's animal biosecurity unit.

"To date, laboratory tests have returned inconclusive and further sampling is under way," a DPI spokesperson said in a statement. "An expert panel has been convened to investigate the deaths and includes an epidemiologist, virologist and animal biosecurity staff."

The DPI response is a necessary move that has come at the end of a difficult–to–fathom delay, according to Mossgiel grazier Terry Huntly, who has suffered significant stock losses in each of the outbreaks.

Farm of The Week: Global Pass for Farmer on Beef Quest
Dateline: 12/30/13, Source: Yorkshire Post, UK

Surrounded daily by about 1,000 cattle it is no wonder that Richard Pennock is striving for efficiency in the beef industry. The 30–year–old, who works as a deputy manager at Sir Ken Morrison's Myton Hall Farms estate in Boroughbridge, is plotting an international trip to learn how farming operations abroad can offer lessons to the beef industry here.

Such insights could prove invaluable, he believes, not least at a time when increased prices are seeing consumers turn to alternative meats.

Richard's trip is no ordinary mission. He is among the lucky few to successfully apply for a Nuffield scholarship, awarded annually to a driven individual by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS).

Beef Quality Assurance –"Is Just Part of Good Business"
Dateline: 01/01/14, Source: The Roundup, Montana

Bill Pelton is a third generation ranch raised Montanan who has been in and around the industry all his life. He's been in the sales and marketing side of the industry since 1970. Pelton obtained a degree in Animal Science/Ag Production from Montana State University. He resides in Billings, Montana with his family where he owns and operates BILL PELTON Livestock, LLC. He has the distinction of being first in the industry to develop and use electronic promotion, "e–CattleAds", as a medium to help his clients achieve success.

Pelton sited a quote on BQA from Dee Griffin DVM, associate professor at the University of Nebraska's Great Plains Veterinary Education Center, "It's a process of figuring out what could go wrong, planning to avoid it – then validating and documenting what you have done."

Pelton will speak on January 9 on Beef Quality Assurance online certification process through Animal Care Training. "BQA teaches safe and humane cattle handling and food safety," stated Pelton.

Kansas State Researcher Examines E. coli in Beef
Dateline: 01/01/14, Source: Agri-View

Less than two years into a sweeping five-year study focused on prevention of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in beef, researchers at Kansas State University, Manhattan, and elsewhere are making progress on several fronts, according to Randy Phebus, Kansas State professor of animal sciences and industry.

Phebus notes that the scientists are working closely with industry production and processing partners because it's important to study the problem in real-life settings. The $25 million effort, announced two years ago, includes more than 50 collaborators at 14 universities and government agencies across the country. Seventeen Kansas State scientists are working with the lead institution, the University of Nebraska, and others on a multi-pronged approach aimed at reducing the occurrence and public health risks from Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC).

This group of bacteria is a serious threat to the safety of the food supply, causing more than 265,000 infections in the U.S. each year. Eating contaminated food or direct contact with fecal matter from infected cattle and other ruminants causes most of these illnesses. "I think this is really ground–breaking work that we're doing," Phebus says. "It's work that hasn't really been done elsewhere just because of the scope of it."

Maintaining Positive Impacts on Beef Quality
Dateline: 12/23/13, Source: CattleNetwork.com

What do you think the average consumer is looking for when they step up to the meat counter to purchase your beef? Regardless of price, consumers expect a safe, wholesome, high quality product every time they make a purchase and expect that the animal was provided humane treatment throughout its life. Cattlemen can help maintain consumer confidence through daily management decisions that have positive impacts on the quality of beef products while the cattle are in their care.

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program addresses consumer concerns about cattle care and well-being along with beef safety and quality. Best management practices are used to set production standards in areas such as cattle handling, herd health and nutrition, animal identification, proper handling of non-ambulatory or disabled animals, proper use of animal health products, proper injection site techniques, proper vaccine handling, and record keeping.

News We Can Use

If you have news to share with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef membership, please send it to polly.welden@grsbeef.org

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