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

The last two weeks have seen continued interest in the sustainability of the global livestock industry. Livestock sustainability was the major focus of the "Meat Atlas," a document highly-critical of many aspects of the livestock sector written by the Heinrich Boell Foundation in collaboration with Friends of the Earth. While we may disagree with much of the document (see Global Meat News article below or click HERE), it is an indication of how some consumers view our industry and is an example of how consumer perceptions are being influenced.

Therefore, it is a document relevant to our roundtable and one I encourage you to read. While it is important that GRSB works on the supply side to develop principles and criteria to improve our sustainability performance; it is equally important that we also work to communicate our efforts to the demand side.

While our growing membership shows that momentum continues to grow, we must remain aware of the groups at the opposite end of the spectrum that will always oppose our efforts. These groups include the most zealous anti–meat lobby and less progressive producers who regard any sustainability effort to be anti–meat in and of itself.

While producers will judge GRSB by our actions in supporting meaningful actions that improve their performance and profitability and ensuring that their voice is heard, the anti–meat lobby is much less likely to listen or respond positively to our efforts. Thus, it will be important that we engage the consumer with well–presented information underpinned by sound science to demonstrate that sustainable beef can be a reality.

In this regard, I wish to reiterate my personal appeal from the last executive board call for members to put forward communications specialists to populate our communications committee and ensure we can communicate a positive message to combat the perception that our industry cannot be sustainable.


Roundtable Updates

Around Beef's Roundtable
Dateline: 01/21/14, Source: North Queensland Register

WHAT is "sustainability" for a beef production system - not just one system, but all the world's beef systems?

This is the unenviable task before the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) - to develop definitions of sustainability, in all the word's senses, that can be overlaid on all the world's beef production systems.

GRSB was founded by a group of organisations with a global footprint: JBS, Cargill, McDonald's, Elanco and WWF, among others.

The roundtable's mission: to advance the global beef industry to a point where "all aspects of the beef value chain are environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable".

A full spectrum of the global industry sits at the table, from organisations that represent producers — including Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) — beef processors, pharmaceutical companies, and "civil society" members, including the Fitzroy Basin Association.

The Queensland Basin produces more beef than the Northern Territory, but its entire catchment, twice the size of Tasmania, drains into one river that runs into the Great Barrier Reef.

An Australian beef roundtable group also sat on the GRSB until about six months ago, when it decided to fold its activities and its membership into the global group.

The GRSB has released six definitions of beef production sustainability among its members for internal comment, and expects to table the definitions for public discussion later this year.

Member News

Changes to Cattle Council of Australia Membership
Dateline: 01/31/14, Source: The Rural

Farmers will now have more input into the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) following changes to applications for direct memberships.

The new rights allow members to stand for the CCA board and vote on board elections.

Members will also be able nominate to participate on CCA policy sub-committees. "The Australian beef industry needs strong representation from those who know it best, beef producers," said CCA president Andrew Ogilvie.

"In joining as a direct member to the Cattle Council, Australian producers can take control of the industry, evoke change and ensure the best outcomes for the Australian beef industry."

VIDEO: Sustainable Beef
Dateline: 01/28/14, Source AgWeek and Certified Angus Beef LLC

Sustainability is important to ranchers. They just don't always talk about it. This video with remarks from Kim Stackhouse-Lawson and John Robinson, both of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, talks of why that should change. View Video

New-look Website for JBS Seeks to Engage with Cattle Suppliers and Customers
Dateline: 01/31/14, Source: By Jon Condon, BEEF Central

Innovative new technologies feature in a major redesign and upgrade of JBS Australia's website, which goes live for the first time today. The website is designed to target three main user audiences — consumers and wholesale customers of JBS Australia's branded beef and lamb products; slaughter and feeder livestock suppliers; and potential employees considering JBS as part of their career plans.

"It was time for a website upgrade, especially as the company continues to grow and expand its brand offer and product range," JBS marketing executive Brad De Luca said in a briefing this morning. The new website has a modern, contemporary look, and includes a series of novel features as part of a process seeking to engage more actively with other stakeholders along the supply chain from paddock to plate.

Each of JBS's commercial brand programs will be featured on dedicated website pages, highlighting the attributes and stories behind each brand. Some will then link-off to specific brand websites, such as Great Southern Beef and Lamb, or Aberdeen Black, JBS's EU specific brand. One of the features of the website's customer page will be a "where to buy our product" function, using Google Maps.

Three 'P' Program Launched
Dateline: 01/22/14, Source: By Melanie Speicher, Kitsap Sun

It all started with a question.

What can Cargill do to help its customers — the farmers who bring their crops to the company — become more aware of the environment around them?

That question has led to the launch of a new county program unveiled Wednesday during a luncheon at the Shelby County Ag Center.

"Water Quality and Nutrient Management — From Planning to Placement to Profit!" is a joint effort of Cargill, Shelby Soil & Water Conservation District and the Shelby County Farm Bureau.

In the News

UK Environment Group Points to Global Meat Challenge
Dateline: 01/28/14, Source: By Ed Bedington, GlobalMeatNews.com

Environmental campaigners have launched a new publication, which they claim illustrates the challenges of growing global meat consumption.

The Atlas of Meat, published by Friends of the Earth (FOE), is described as a "unique, graphic and highly accessible guide" to the "many aspects of the global meat system."

FOE said the Atlas "illustrates clearly that how we produce and consume meat and dairy needs a radical rethink" and it says industrialised production is untenable.

In a introduction to the publication, Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of FOE Europe, said: "This publication sheds light on the impacts of meat and dairy production, and aims to catalyse the debate over the need for better, safer and more sustainable food and farming. We hope to inspire people to look at their own consumption, and politicians at all levels to take action to support those farmers, processors, retailers and networks who are working to achieve change. We, as a species, need to be smarter." MEAT ATLAS (PDF)

Traders Fear BJP's Victory May Play Spoilsport in Booming Beef Exports
Dateline: 01/20/14, Source: Livemint.com

Exports of Indian beef are expected to rise to a record 1.8 million tonnes in 2013-14.

Investors, brokers and industries may be rooting for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but traders in the beef market fear a victory for the right–wing political party could hit their booming business.

Exports of Indian beef are expected to rise to a record 1.8 million tonnes in 2013-14, accounting for about 20% of world trade in the commodity. Exports, which hit Rs.17,500 crore in value last year, have risen 102% over the last three years as demand for Indian beef in the international markets has surged.

To be sure, Indian traders, like local restaurants, make the distinction that much of this is what they term "buff" or buffalo meet and not beef.

It's a distinction that isn't made internationally, but it is one that could well make sense in India where the cow is considered holy and the buffalo dirty.

Kenyans Earn First Ever Carbon Credits from Sustainable Farming
Dateline: 01/21/14, Source: Worldbank.org

Smallholder farmers in western Kenya are now benefiting from carbon credits generated by improving farming techniques.  

These are the first credits worldwide issued under the sustainable agricultural land management (SALM) carbon accounting methodology.

The Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP) involves 60,000 farmers on 45,000 hectares to support farming that is more productive, sustainable and climate–friendly. After years of land degradation, many farmers struggled to grow enough food for their families. They are now using a wide range of methods to increase the organic matter in soils. In the long term, this should improve the soil's water absorption, nutrient supply and biodiversity, and help prevent erosion.

Better soils raise farm yields, improving food security and making agriculture more resilient to climate change.  
On January 16, the projectissued its first carbon credits under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) for sequestering carbon in soil, thanks to these changed agricultural land management practices. The credits represent a reduction of 24,788 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to emissions from 5,164 vehicles in a year.


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



Fed Farmers Meat Industry Paper Challenged
Dateline 01/21/14, Source Radio New Zealand News

A meat company head is taking issue with a Federated Farmers paper on options for the meat industry.

The federation released the discussion paper to its members late last year to get feed-back on what sheep and beef farmers believe should be done to make the industry less fragmented and more profitable.

Options include meat industry restructuring through company mergers, and more co-ordinated processing and marketing.

But Tony Egan, managing director of Waikato-based beef processor and exporter Greenlea Premier Meats, said the paper suffered from a one size fits all approach.

It was a good overview of the debate on the future direction of the meat industry but did not recognise that some companies, including his own, were thriving and profitable, he said.

"The paper frames up the state of the industry as one where there's a lack of profitability, there's fragmentation. It even refers to processing overcapacity as a plague on the industry and commodity production versus value-added consumer products as being very bad.

"I'm just trying to highlight that it's not all bad. It is possible to make money in the meat industry. It is possible to have products that are well regarded and premiums are paid for them and that the supply chain can be efficient and can have very loyal customer base, it is possible to have good working relationships with farmers and to have operational excellence all working along the value chain," Mr Egan said.

The Drought That Ate the US Herd
Dateline: 01/31/14, Source: Queensland Country Life


Texas, USA, and Queensland, Australia, are half a world apart, but their beef industries are strikingly similar. And not just because of the big hats.

Texas in early 2014 has been through the sort of industry–changing drought that is tearing the heart out of Queensland's beef industry, and can offer a view from the other side.

Actually, not the other side, as Texas cattleman Bob McCan told Fairfax: much of the US State is still in what has now been a five-year drought.

That applies to much of the western US, most especially California, which is plunging into its worst drought on record.

What Mr McCan, the president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, can see is the other side of a cattle supply glut.

Mr McCan runs a 3500–head Braford herd at Victoria, in the centre of Texas. He visited Australia last September, and saw the saleyards jammed with cattle. He'd seen similar scenes at home.

Beef Production Slated To Drop Significantly In 2014
Dateline: 01/28/14, Source: By Ken Gaebler, Gaebler.com

USDA forecasts steep decline in beef production this year, impact likely to trickle down to restaurants, groceries and various other small businesses.

From fast food burger chains to high-end steak houses, much of the U.S. food service market relies on the beef supply for normal operations. But rising prices and a project shortfall in beef production may spell trouble for some businesses as well as beef-loving consumers in 2014.

According to a recent USDA forecast, U.S. beef production is expected to decline significantly in 2014. Total feedlot inventories are at historic lows–10.6 million head of cattle, which is 5.4 percent lower than this time in 2013 and 6.7 percent lower than the five–year average.

The shortage of beef is having a significant impact on the cattle futures market. In mid–January, cattle future hit a record high of $143.93/cwt, a year–over–year gain of 14.4 percent and 36 percent above the five–year average for January.

Rising prices will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect on many businesses and influence pricing methods, especially in restaurants that focus on beef-based menu items.

In response to declining supply, industry insiders expect rising beef prices to dominate the market for much of the year. In turn, it is anticipated that beef consumption will also decrease throughout 2014.

                        Supermarket Loyalty to British Beef Producers Short-lived, Claims Industry Chief
Dateline: 01/28/14, Source: The Journal

One year on from the horsemeat scandal and beef finishers are finding their prices on the slide, says Chris Mallon of the National Beef Association.

Should farmers believe anything that the supermarkets tell them? That’s the question from Chris Mallon, chief executive of the National Beef Association.

He said: "Yet again finishers are wondering what happened to the demand for their cattle. A year ago consumers found out that their cheap beef was horse, resulting in leading retailers telling farmers they were backing British beef, they had learned their lesson and local produce was their goal.

"But almost a year on and the promises seem hollow to those finishing British cattle. Prices have been on the slide for weeks and those producing under schemes such as Angus are faced with waiting lists.

"Retailers are putting pressure on processors to cut costs and cattle finishers are the first target." The lure of cheap imported beef once again seems to be more important than supply chain integrity, Mr Mallon said. After Ireland, Poland is the largest exporter of meat to the European market and already Irish-based processors are active there.

The labelling of country of origin is important to the consumer and farmer, and when meat is an ingredient, it also needs to show country of origin, he said.

House Passes Farm Bill
Dateline 01/29/14, Source: Beef Magazine, by Burt Rutherford

After years of debate and controversy, and heavy lobbying up until the final vote, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a farm bill.

By a vote of 251–166, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known as the farm bill.
Passing a farm bill took almost three years, and the final result drew responses from high praise to disappointment and anger from a variety of groups both within and outside of agriculture.

One highly contentious issue within the beef industry is mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL). While the original House farm bill contained language that would have repealed MCOOL, it was removed during the conference committee process and the final bill the House approved today does not repeal MCOOL.

It's anticipated that the U.S. Senate will vote on the measure next week.

Let's Get Serious About Funding Our War Chest
Dateline: 01/23/14, Source: By Troy Marshall, Beef Magazine

Because activist groups utilize so many directions to attack livestock production, it’s difficult to imagine that the industry can continue to sustain itself at the funding level it currently provides itself.

The industry has long struggled with the dilemma of how to collect funds to build demand, the importance of which virtually everyone understands. However, even the $1 checkoff, which produces a miniscule budget– relative to the size of our industry – for promotion and research, is still being debated.

And that's despite the huge return that producers have seen and are enjoying on their investment.

Beef demand remains the key driver, but there's been a major shift in the factors driving beef demand. All one has to do is look at the groups aligned against animal agriculture and their tactics. Yes, they continue to attack the industry on a health basis, while competitive proteins attack beef on a consistency and price basis. However, increasingly, these activists are using issues ranging from the environment to animal welfare to attack not only beef production, but beef demand as well.

Even today, the biggest concerns about the market are focused on some outside market disturbance – a disease outbreak, for instance, a food safety concern, or some other event that slows or stops the weak economic growth this country is experiencing. In certain states where the urban vs. rural makeup is decidedly unfavorable to livestock production, the use of initiatives and the political process are a primary tool for these groups.

Because activist groups utilize so many directions to attack livestock production – the environment, endangered species, nutrition, etc. – it's difficult to imagine that we can continue to sustain ourselves at the funding levels that the industry currently provides itself.

In the past, tremendous grassroots involvement by producers helped mitigate the lack of financial investment. But today's narrow margins, and the free-loader concept, limit investment.

Verified Beef Production Assessing Potential New Modules

Dateline: 01/28/14, Source: Meristem Land & Science

What producers need to know about plans that include farm animal care.

Canada's on-farm food safety program for beef, the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program, is looking to add modules for biosecurity, animal care, and environmental stewardship. In an easy-to-use manner that complements current farm level practices.
While in its early stages, it has the potential for using VBP as an anchor for a second level of programming.

To learn more NewStream asked Terry Grajczyk, national manager for VBP for more details.

Why is this being done?

In some markets there are indications that customers are asking for more assurances of sustainable production practices, and this is a way to respond to anticipated needs. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association continues to look at ways producers can secure further recognition and reward for credible production practices. Adding new options will promote acceptable beef production practices and demonstrate Canada's beef industry commitment to responsible production. That will help define Canada's beef story with positive benefits geared to match or exceed competing countries.

How will this fit with existing sustainability programs?

Previous and on-going work in this area will be utilized. Existing materials such as the national biosecurity standard, environmental farm plans, animal care codes, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and other materials will be used wherever appropriate.

Is Collaboration on Sustainable Sourcing Going Far Enough?
Dateline: 01/29/14, Source: The Strategic Sourceror

Sustainability has been a chief concern among many companies for some time now, but 2013 saw a number of advances that suggest the trend is continuing to gain steam. McDonald's announced its commitment to moving toward 100 percent sustainable sourcing for its beef, while Hershey publicized its efforts to ensure that the palm oil used in its chocolate is both traceable and environmentally friendly.

Furthermore, collaborative partnerships dedicated to sustainable product sourcing have popped up within a number of industries - one of the most prominent is the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, spearheaded by McDonald's.

The promise that such organizations hold for reducing environmental impacts and spreading green logistics globally is considerable. But the question remains: Are these collaborations going far enough to bring about real change to procurement practices? Signs are looking up.

There are many factors that those who would respond positively to this question might cite as support for their position, but one of the more obvious signs is the sheer number of collaborative partnerships for sustainability that have cropped up in recent months. In a column for GreenBiz, the publication's chairman and executive editor Joel Makower noted that there are quite a few of these organizations: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the Round Table on Responsible Soy, the Better Cotton Initiative, the Sustainable Manufacturing Roundtable and others.

"Talk about a collaborative economy!" Makower commented. But he went on to insist that such partnerships aren't always easy to implement, as they "require getting the right people and organizations to the table, having a clear vision, creating effective governance and setting the right goals."

Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems Key to Fighting Hunger, UN Agency Says
Dateline: 01/17/14, Source:UN News Centre

Healthy people need healthy and sustainable food systems, the United Nations said today said calling for agricultural research and development to become more focused on nutrition, as well as local biodiversity and diversified farming systems.

"Our common approach to food production is simply not sustainable today, or in 2050, when we will have to provide food for a population of 9.6 billion people,”"said FAO Deputy Director-General Helena Semedo.

"We need to produce nutritious food for all people today while also protecting the capacity of future generations to feed themselves,”"she added.

Food production has tripled since 1945 and average food availability per person has risen by 40 per cent, FAO said.

Despite the abundance of food supplies, there are still 840 million people that go hungry every day, according to FAO. The health of another two billion is compromised by nutrient deficiencies.

This, as another 1.5 billion people are overweight or obese, consuming more food than their bodies need and exposing them to greater risk of diabetes, heart problems and other diseases.

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