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

None of you will have missed the considerable interest over the past two weeks generated by the series of Greenbiz articles on McDonalds announcement that they would be sourcing sustainable beef. These included many references to GRSB and an extensive interview with Cameron Bruett, our president.

We have seen the positive side of such publicity, in renewed interest in membership from several sides, including up to four new members in those two weeks alone. We have also observed an expected backlash from the more radical anti beef lobby to the effect that any sustainability initiative in the beef industry is not worth pursuing. We stick to our belief that prioritising Planet, People, Animals and Progress through socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable management will always be worth pursuing.

After presenting several articles on emissions in the last edition of of GRSB connect, I wanted to present some counterpoint articles emphasising solutions, rather than problems, and focusing on soil and the potential to rebuild it; not surprisingly, livestock are an important component of these.

I want to remind you about our second global conference on sustainable beef with the theme "Defining Sustainable Beef" in the week of 11–15 August 2014; we are looking forward to making this as much of a success as the first one, and launching our principles and criteria at that event. Being in Brazil will give us the opportunity to get out of the city and see some Brazilian producers, processors and sustainability initiatives as well as the conference itself.


Roundtable Updates

Two Steps Forward: A three-part series from GreenBiz.com.

Part One was featured in the last issue of Connect
(Inside McDonald's Quest for Sustainable Beef)

Part 2:
How a Big Mac Becomes Sustainable

Dateline: 01/08/14, Source: GreenBiz.com, By Joel Makower

McDonald's announcement that it plans to source "sustainable beef" in the coming years has the potential to transform the more than 60 million tons of beef produced globally each year for restaurants, supermarkets and food processors. To accomplish that, however, McDonald's–along with other large beef customers–will need to effect change on a complex, sprawling and entrenched industry whose practices and terminology vary from region to region, even farm to farm. It won’t be easy.

Transforming any supply chain to embrace sustainability is a messy and time–consuming exercise. You've got to get companies at every link of the chain to do things differently. There can be new levels of accountability and transparency and lots of communications. It may require new technologies or investments. Suppliers may need to let go of old habits in favor of new mindsets.
Above all, it requires change on everyone's part.

Part 3:
Can the Beef Industry Collaborate Its Way to Sustainability?

Dateline: 01/09/14, Source: GreenBiz.com, By Joel Makower

In November 2010, the Who's Who of the global beef industry found their way to Denver, Colo. About 350 of them: ranchers, feeders, packers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, academics, government officials and activists of all stripes. They came from North and South America, Europe, Australia and beyond. Their audacious goal: Determine if there was any common ground on which to define "sustainable beef."

As Jason Clay put it: "It was more tense than a long–tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs."

Clay, senior vice president, market transformation, at WWF, was a convener of the event, dubbed the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. Joining Clay at the host table were executives from Cargill, Merck Animal Health, JBS, McDonald's and Wal–Mart. Each company had a multi–billion–dollar stake in the future of beef.

McDonald's Sustainable Beef Program Could Be Game–Changing, But Will Consumers Care?
Dateline: 01/13/14, source: DailyFinance.com, by Casey Kelly–Barton

McDonald's recently announced plans to start buying "verified sustainable" beef by 2016. This news was greeted by the media with skepticism. Time announced that "McDonald's Will Serve Up Sustainable Beef, Whatever That Is," and Salon wondered if the plan was "McFluff."

McDonald's seems caught between market research (which shows customers want sustainable beef), and media and public wariness about "greenwashing." The question is whether McDonald's can build customer goodwill by promoting complex long–term plans rather than sound-bite sized accomplishments.

McDonald's lack of a detailed definition and purchasing timeline comes from the fact that there is no industry or government standard for sustainable beef. A large part of this week's announcement highlighted McDonald's work with the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, or GRSB, to craft a standard and then purchase beef that meets it.

Member News

JBS Won't Move into New Zealand Beef Processing Sector
Dateline: 01/15/14, Source: Food Production Daily, by Jenny Eagle

JBS beef and pork processor has denied reports it will enter the 'fragmented' New Zealand beef processing sector. According to a Federated Farmers report in New Zealand, the country’s meat processing industry is under threat because its processing is overcapacity and 'plagues the industry.'

"JBS have successfully entered the US and Australian markets and become big players. What is stopping them from doing the same in NZ?" the report says. "They could bring with them the economies of scale and efficiencies, as well as the institutional knowledge and customers they have developed from their role as the world’s largest meat company and their operations in Brazil, the US, and Australia."

However, Alexandre Inacio, corporative communication manager, JBS Brazil, denied the reports and told FoodProductionDaily JBS has beef operations in Australia, EUA, Brasil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada. "For now we don't have any plans for New Zealand or any country where we don’t have an operation," he said.

Neogen Licenses Cargill's Livestock Genomic Patents
Dateline 01/13/14, Source: Farms.com, by Amanda Brodhagen

Cargill and Branhaven LLC announced an agreement to licence Neogen Corp, their patented BeefGen genomics technology, to enhance meat and milk production in beef and dairy cattle.

Neogen will use BeefGen tools through its GeneSeek subsidiary to work with cattle producers to improve their herds through bovine genetic data, which will be used for breeding and livestock management.

"Cargill is excited to enter into this license agreement with Neogen to ensure that the work started over a decade ago by Cargill and its partners is utilized in the marketplace more broadly," said George Kwasniak, vice president of business development for Cargill's animal protein group.

Woolies Among Top 20 Retailers
Dateline 01/13/14, Source SkyNews.com.au

Australia's two biggest supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles continue to punch above their weight, cementing their place among the world's top 20 retailers.

Woolworths jumped two spots to 15th place while Coles' parent company Wesfarmers fell one place to 19th in a global ranking of the 250 biggest retailers by revenue. This year's Deloitte Global Powers of retailing report found Australian consumers were fairly upbeat in the face of a difficult start overseas in the last fiscal year.

"Our home grown retailers Woolworths and Wesfarmers continue to maintain their impressive position in the top 20 global retailing powers," Deloitte Australia Partner David White said.

The Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show on February 4–7, 2014 in Nashville, Tenn.
Source: Beef USA

The Cattle Industry Convention is the oldest and largest convention for the cattle business. The convention and trade show create a unique, fun environment for cattle industry members to come together to network, create policy for the industry and to have some fun! If you’re in the cattle business, then you need to be at the Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show. 

In the News

NRDC Growing Green Awards Requests Nominations
Dateline 01/10/14, Source: Northcentral PA.com

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Berkeley Food Institute have announced the 2014 Growing Green Awards to recognize leadership in the field of sustainable food systems.

The 2014 national award categories are Sustainable Food and Farm Educator, Sustainable Livestock Producer, Pollinator Protector, and Regional Food Leader. Online applications accepted until January 31.

Analysis: Steady Year for Hilton Sets Stage for Growth
Dateline 01/10/14, Source: just Food.com, byKaty Askew

Hilton Food Group today (10 January) confirmed its fullyear performance is "in-line" with expectations following a fiscal year that positions the UK meat group for future growth through new business wins and geographical expansion.

Significantly this year, Hilton also established a joint venture with Australian retailer Woolworths plc, marking the UK meat group's first foray in the country.

"Hilton's joint venture in Australia continues to make good progress," the company revealed. "New packaging formats have been launched for pork, lamb and beef in Western Australia and a large part of the Bunbury plant reconfiguration has now been completed. In Victoria, preparation for the construction of the new facility in Melbourne is underway. We are also now providing support to Woolworths with the operation of its Brismeats facility near Brisbane."

Scaling Up Sustainable Commodity Supply Chains
2104 Katoomba Meeting, March 19-20, 2014, Iguazu Falls, Brazil

If the challenge of increased agricultural production and zerodeforestation is to be met in the next few years, new relationships, creative approaches, and new sources of finance will be required to help companies and their suppliers achieve long-term sustainability while still meeting their bottom line.

This meeting will bring together major corporations in the cattle and soy industries, small holders, policy makers, financial institutions, deforestation experts, and civil society organizations to identify challenges and solutions to shift towards sustainable, zero deforestation commodities production. Please join us for this timely event.

For more information review the draft agenda at the conference website.

The Power of a Plan
Dateline 01/04/14, Source AgWeb.com, by Cheramie Viator, Beef Today Columnist

Many of us in the beef industry meander through our production cycle aimlessly. We breed cows and heifers, make hay, assist with calving, feed hay, wean calves and repeat the cycle annually. Much of what we accomplish is done without a plan.

If we fall into the habit of going through our cattle production cycle with minimal purpose or direction, the result is mediocrity, commodity beef and just simple survival. Very simply, I believe taking the time to create a plan and measure progress could be one of the greatest opportunities we have to achieve profitability in the beef industry.

What if you had a plan? A plan is a road map of how to get to a destination and a way to measure progress. The kind of plan I'm talking about doesn't have to be fancy. What's important is getting started and then measuring progress. I've written many plans on a piece of feed sack or cut cards, while other plans require much detail and expan­sion of thought.

What kind of plan does a cow–calf operation need? For either a commercial or registered seedstock operation, I would start by covering a few basics: genetics, conservation/forage and marketing.


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



Part 1: Beta–Agonists, the Environment and Cattle Fatigue
Dateline: 01/14/14 Source: Newswise

K–State veterinarian Dan Thomson reports on the latest research initiatives on beta–agonist use in cattle finishing rations, in the wake of the zilpaterol issue: he and colleagues are drawing comparisons to a similar condition discovered several years ago in pigs, and are attempting to sort out all the factors that may be contributing to ambulatory concerns in cattle at packing plants.

In agricultural production, maintaining a level of excellence that includes environmental sustainability, animal welfare and food safety, while keeping food affordable for consumers is top-of-mind for many farmers and ranchers, as well as the researchers looking to help them find solutions to ensure this level of excellence.

As consumers shop at their local grocery stores and markets, they might notice that beef products are double or triple the price of other protein sources, and rightfully so, might hold beef to an even higher standard of excellence, said Dan Thomson, Kansas State University veterinarian, professor and director of the Beef Cattle Institute.

"Beef is one of the purest, most wholesome and most humanely raised forms of protein that we produce worldwide," Thomson said. "As a beef industry, we are being asked day in and day out to take a holistic view of technology.” Listen to Interview Here

Part 2: Beta–Agonists, the Environment and Cattle Feed Intake

Dateline: 01/14/14, Source: Newswise.com

Growing cattle that are more efficient in converting feed to muscle is a main goal in the beef industry. Many cattle producers, feedlot operators and researchers strive to use genetics and modern feedlot technologies to continuously improve that efficiency.

Chris Reinhardt, feedlot specialist for Kansas State University, is one of those researchers seeking to find solutions to improve efficiency in cattle production. Reinhardt has looked specifically at how beta-agonists, a cattle feed supplement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and considered safe from a food safety perspective, improve the cattle’s natural ability to convert feed into more lean muscle.

"Beta–agonists increase the deposition of lean muscle on the carcass," Reinhardt said. "They make cattle more efficient at converting grain to muscle. They also improve the efficiency of converting an animal carcass into sellable meat."

Zilmax, formally known as zilpaterol hydrochloride, is one of only two beta–agonists approved for cattle feeding on the market. However, Merck Animal Health, manufacturer of Zilmax, voluntarily suspended sales of the product last September when major U.S. meat packer Tyson announced it would stop buying cattle fed Zilmax due to an animal welfare concern, which questioned if the product affected the ambulatory ability, or movement, of cattle.

There has been no direct link established between the use Zilmax and impaired cattle mobility, Reinhardt said.

Beef Industry Sector Leaders Give Their Unique Perspectives On What’s Ahead
Dateline: 01/10/14, Source: BEEF Magazine

Beef Magazine recently asked leaders of the various U.S. beef production sectors to provide their personal thoughts on the following question: "Looking 10 years down the road, what do you think will look the most different in the industry relative to today?"

(Feeding Sector) From James Herring, CEO, Friona Industries LP, Amarillo, TX: "Alignment is the industry's future."

"Down the road, the ever–evolving beef industry supply chain will be much different than today. Consequently, it stands to reason that beef industry participants will also have to be much different.

"Huge capital requirements, monstrous volatility, aging demographics of our producers and our old Achilles heel––the impossibility of an easy, seamless, vertically aligned production system––will all contribute to constant pressure throughout the beef system, with its five distinct segments for innovation, efficiency, product quality and consistent delivery.

"The future of the industry really comes down to alignment."

The 2014 Beef Industry Outlook
Dateline: 01/13/14, Source: Drover’s CattleNetwork by John Nalivka

The beef industry reached a milestone in 2013 as record prices were posted across the supply chain. So, as we look ahead into 2014, is the adage, "there's no looking back" appropriate? Certainly, prices across the industry have increased significantly from their 2008–2012 averages, and I believe there is plenty of room for firm price increases during 2014. But, at the same time, I don't think it is time to throw caution to the wind, particularly with regard to demand.

I think producers will begin building herds during 2014, but the process will be relatively slow even in the face of record calf and feeder cattle prices. Perhaps, if it were not for the severe droughts during 2011 and 2012, we would have seen the end of liquidation already. The implied heifer retention based on changes in the size of the beef cow herd would support this contention.

Drought and Demand Boost Australian Beef Exports
Dateline 01/10/14, Source Global Meat News, by Lee Adendorff

Australian beef and veal exporters have been buoyed by data from the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) showing record export numbers for the industry in 2013. The country exported nearly 1.1 million tonnes (t) of chilled and frozen beef and veal in 2013, up 14% from the 963,779t achieved in 2012.

Ongoing and severe drought, particularly in Queensland and the Northern Territory, drove Australian cattle to slaughter at the highest level since 1978, according to Tim McRae, market information and analysis manager for producer organisation Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). "Strong demand from China, the Middle East, South Korea and south–east Asia helped to accommodate the additional beef produced throughout 2013," McRae told Globalmeatnews.com.

McRae said he anticipated "some of the demand will be retained [through 2014], but overall performance will be largely influenced by access conditions for Brazilian beef".

Paraguay Plans to Climb from Eighth to World's Fifth Exporter of Beef by 2018
Dateline 01/13/14, Source: MercoPress

One of Paraguay's priorities is to make the country the world's fifth exporter of beef by 2018, according to Industry and Trade minister Gustavo Leite. The land locked member of Mercosur currently holds the eighth position.  "But we also want Paraguay to become the world's third per capita consumer of beef (behind Uruguay and Argentina), because let's not forget that Paraguayans love to eat beef and love their barbecue", added Leite.

The minister revealed that the plan is based on incorporation an estimated 120,000 small cattle farmers to a national production program, applying modern technology and sanitary practices.

How Grazing Cows Can Save the Planet, and Other Surprising Ways of Healing the Earth
Dateline 01/12/14, source: Mercola.com by Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola interviews Judith Schwartz, freelance writer and author of the book Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.

"It's useful to understand that the notion of bringing carbon back into the soil; one thing that it does is withdraw carbon down from the atmosphere. Carbon is the main component of soil organic matter. That's the good stuff that you want in soil anyway for fertility. It also absorbs water. When you have carbon–rich soil, you also have soil that is resilient to floods and drought. When you start looking at soil carbon, the news keeps getting better and better," says Schwarz.

Bunching Saves a Bundle
Dateline: 01/09/14, Source Canadian Cattlemen Magazine

Bunch grazing crop residues has cut Greg and Paulette Selzler's winter feed costs by as much as $200 per cow and flip-flopped their strategy for building soil fibre and fertility. Instead of growing forages in rotation to give soil a boost for annual crop production, they now use the annual cropping years and bunch grazing to build soil for the forage years in their integrated beef and grain operation near Mayerthorpe, Alta.

                        They work a five–year rotation of alfalfa–orchard-brome forage into their annual crop rotation, but the cows don't graze the hay land, summer or winter, Selzler says. They feel bale grazing is a viable way to build soil and improve yield, especially for farms not set up for cropping, however, they need to maintain the highest quality and tonnage possible to supply their long–established horse–hay market.

Nor do they swath graze cereal crops. He and his parents tried swath grazing on and off for 25 years, but it seemed there were always weather–related problems with the timing of sowing and feeding the crop. If mould from rain and melting snow didn’t set in, they'd be iced down or buried under heavy snow. Lots of years they'd end up baling the swaths, mouse droppings and all, in the spring just to get them off the field before seeding. As land values and the expense of sowing annual crops for swath grazing went up, so too did the risk.

"I just felt a lot more comfortable taking the grain out first," Selzler says. "That way I'm not out anything if I lose the feed under snow or ice because it's just straw and chaff that would have been chopped and spread behind the combine anyway and I can limit feed the grain as a supplement if needed."

Certifying Sustainability: Opportunities and Challenges for the Cattle Supply Chain in Brazil

A new CGIAR publication (HERE) by Alves– Pinto, Newton, and Pinto examined the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard for Sustainable Cattle Production Systems certification program and the broader state of affairs of livestock and deforestation in the Amazon.

The authors found that the SAN certification is broadly seen a reflecting a high level of sustainability for the farms currently certified (the JD Group in Brazil, and one, El Guapinol, in Guatemala) and the success of these ranches has the potential to impact the broader industry in a number of ways. Challenges to a broader adoption of the system were also outlined.

Alves-Pinto H, Newton P, Pinto L. 2013. Certifying sustainability: opportunities and challenges for the cattle supply chain in Brazil. CCAFS Working Paper No. 57. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Multi–Paddock Grazing on Rangelands
Source: Journal of Environmental Management

Multi–paddock grazing on rangelands: Why the perceptual dichotomy between research results and rancher experience?

Maintaining or enhancing the productive capacity and resilience of rangeland ecosystems is critical for the continued support of people who depend on them for their livelihoods, especially in the face of climatic change. This is also necessary for the continued delivery of ecosystem services derived from rangelands for the broader benefit of societies around the world.

Multi–paddock grazing management has been recommended since the mid–20th century as an important tool to adaptively manage range– lands ecosystems to sustain productivity and improve animal management.

The Business Case for Grazing BMP Industry Innovation
 Dateline: 12/19/13, Source: BMP Grazing

The beef industry is consistently under threat; not only from cyclic climatic events and variation, but highly variable market demands driven by the whims of supermarket chains and community demands.

How the sector deals with these and associated effects of livestock production, e.g., equitable use of our natural resources, consumers' perception of animal welfare, and global opinion of our products is becoming increasingly important for the long–term economic viability of the industry.

Over the last twelve months the Grazing BMP team has had the opportunity to discuss with graziers why the best management practice framework is essential and explain the importance of not letting Grazing BMP die in the wilderness like so many programs before. Defining a business case for Grazing BMP support is really simple; and two key points clearly define why graziers should care about an industry innovation like Grazing BMP.

25pc Growth Seen in Certified Organic Applications
Dateline: 01/07/14, Source: Beef Central

A major Organic certifier has recorded a 25 percent increase in applications for organic certification from beef producers over the past two years, representing an additional 60 requests from beef producers across Australia. Australian Certified Organic's chief certification officer Michael Baker said livestock applications were coming from western Queensland, western New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Tambo, Central Queensland beef producer Andrew Walker, whose family has operated its Moonbong Partnership for three generations, applied for organic certification in November 2012.

"We don't use buffalo fly treatment or hardly any other chemicals for that matter when we finish the bullocks, so we thought we might as well be finishing them under organic status," Andrew said. "We decided to become organically certified because the returns are much more significant. We can expect to get 55c/kg more for a two-tooth steer weighing 300-340kg, from 355c that we currently receive to 410c under organic status."

The Use of Biochar in Cattle Production
Source: Ithicka: Journal for Ecology, Winegrowing and Climate Farming, by Achim Gerlach

90% of the biochar produced in Europe is used in livestock farming. Whether mixed with feed, added to litter or used in the treatment of slurry, the positive effect of biochar very quickly becomes apparent. The health–and consequently the well-being–of the livestock improve within just a short space of time. As regards nasty smells and nutrient losses, the use of biochar could even herald a new age of livestock farming, closing agricultural cycles of organic matter.

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