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Dear GRSB Member, 

From Ruaraidh Petre
Executive Director Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

I spent last week visiting Queensland, meeting amongst others several of our Australian GRSB members. We discussed a range of issues one of which was the "next steps" in our sustainable beef definition process. In early March the first round of public review will begin, allowing all with an interest in the sustainability of the global beef chain to view and comment on our definition to date.

We will be assisted by the Consensus Building Institute in this process; the document will be made available in English, Portuguese and Spanish and the comments will also be processed in all three languages to allow for comment from the most significant regions. The first comment round will be 60 days, followed by a pause to edit and then a further 30 day review period will follow.

The question arose in Queensland, what will happen after the principles and criteria are released? GRSB has said from the beginning that we will not be developing our own certification or standard and we stand by that decision. We consider it essential that at levels of detail beyond the principles and criteria, regional / national multi stakeholder groups (national roundtables) are responsible for setting indicators. We will need a global mechanism to compare and measure impact.

GTPS has already done work on this in Brazil and will be continuing throughout the year, including field testing. There will be further discussion on the next steps at our forthcoming executive board meeting in Brisbane; even if you cannot attend we would welcome suggestions on the continuing work of the definition committee, so please do contact me with suggestions on this or any other area of our work you wish to provide input on.


Roundtable Updates

JBS Blazing Sustainable-Beef Trail
Dateline:02/14/14, Northern Colorado Business Report

JBS USA is lea/ding a worldwide initiative to define “sustainable beef” as the embattled industry seeks to utilize more environmentally sensitive, humane methods to raise cattle.

The Greeley-based subsidiary of Brazilian meatpacker JBS S.A. embarked on the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef initiative with other companies in 2010 and plans to release a draft definition of sustainable beef next month. Operator of a beef processing plant in Greeley with a daily capacity of 5,400 cattle, JBS employs approximately 4,200 people locally.

The group’s members include corporate giants Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY); Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE: MRK); Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT); Cargill Inc., which has a meat processing facility in Fort Morgan; and McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD), which earlier this month pledged to use sustainable beef. The initiative aims to address problems in the beef industry ranging from Amazon deforestation to methane emissions from cattle.

Member News

Cattle Shortage Hits Market
Dateline: 02/03/14, Source: Nambian

Nambia's beef industry is likely to suffer the negative effects of drought for the next three years, especially the shortage of slaughter livestock. The Meat Corporation of Namibia (Meatco)'s Regional Procurement Manager, Koos Classens said in the company's latest newsletter issued on Friday that farmers do not have enough animals to produce optimally.

"This can be ascribed to the fact that producers were forced to sell most of their livestock last year to avoid incurring losses because grazing had been depleted by the drought. Thus, the availability of slaughter cattle in Namibia is at an all-time low and Meatco expects to slaughter only about 78 000 head of cattle – the lowest in the corporation's history," he said.

Meatco's Executive for Policy Innovation, Stakeholder Relations and Corporate Affairs Vehaka Tjimune also said that most of the cattle that would have been slaughtered this year were exported to such an extent that there will be very few slaughter oxen in 2014.

He said the weaners exported last year would have been the reserve animals for 2014, which would have supplied the slaughter stock for 2015.

"This means that low numbers of slaughter stock will continue until 2015. The following year, 2016, will also be a challenge for the industry since many cows that should have calved this year, left the country on the hoof."

In the News

Improving Productivity Has Reduced the Environmental Impact of the US Beef Industry
Dateline: 02/10/14, Source: By Shawn Cabak, Portage Daily Graphic

The livestock industry faces a challenge in producing sufficient animal protein to supply the needs of the growing global population while reducing the environmental impact. One of the most significant questions facing the beef industry is how to overcome the misconception that modern agriculture is environmentally unfavorable.

Improved management, nutrition, and genetics have considerably reduced resource use and waste output per unit of beef over the past 30 years. Genetic selection, ration formulation and growth enhancing technologies (ionophores and implants) have meant we can produce more beef with less animals while using less resources. This resulting reduction in greenhouse gas and manure emissions has led to a 16% decrease in the carbon footprint per unit of beef. Consumers often assume extensive pasture based systems such as grass finishing have lower carbon footprint than conventional grain based systems. In fact due to the slower growth rates and lighter carcass weights grass finished beef has a 74% higher carbon footprint than conventional beef.

Even products labelled as organic, natural or hormone free cost more to produce and are less environmentally sustainable than traditional beef.

Improving productivity has played a key role in reducing the environmental impact of livestock production. When growth rates can be increased fewer resources are used to produce the same amount of food. It is therefore imperative that management practices and technologies that improve productivity are not impeded in the future.

Talks Beef Up Indonesia Ties
Dateline: 02/11/14, Source: By Brad Thompson, The West Australian

Two major cattle industry events in Broome will focus on beefing up trade by encouraging Indonesian interests to buy into stations and the Australian supply chain. Building closer ties with Indonesia through cross investment will be the major focus of the Northern Producer Forum organised by the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.

In a sign of the importance of the event, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce will attend the forum on February 28. It will be his first visit to WA since taking up the key Cabinet post. Representatives from the Indonesian Government and business community are also expected in Broome, along with WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston, Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh, Northern Territory Minister Willem Westra van Holthe and local and national industry leaders.

The heavyweight line-up will focus on building Indonesian and Australian trade relationships through bilateral investment. Their visit will include a field trip to two key beef operations.

Consumer Demand Panel Provides Insight to the Beef Industry
Dateline: 02/07/14, Source: By Laura Mushrush, Drovers CattleNetwork

                                  Consumer demand driver of the beef market. During a consumer demand outlook session at the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., producers had the opportunity to discuss promoting beef with a diverse panel of industry supporters who market beef directly to a variety of public audiences. Issues discussed ranged from marketing to different generations to relaying the beef production story to the general public.

Amee Livingston, author of the blog, Amee’s Savory Dish, and CrossFit trainer based out of Atlanta, Ga., focusses many of her healthy lifestyle recipes around beef. The mother of two told producers she only cooks with grass-fed beef raised by a local rancher because of the nutritional benefits and her trust in the beef being raised safely.

Many of Livingston’s readers are of the millennial generation (born 1980-1995), which she described as a "fast food" generation who wants healthy and quick meals. Vice President of protein for Performance Foodservice Steve Sands agreed, saying millennials look for convenience and ease in their food, which has resulted in developing quicker cooking methods.

Sands warned producers he had seen a decrease of beef in the restaurant market share due to price pressure, saying more restaurants are lowering their beef options and beef portions. Senior Director Commodity Risk Management with Wendy's Quality Supply Chain Cooperative Joe Schechinger agreed, stating the marketing conversation to consumers needed to be shifting to value through quality eating experiences.

Consumer Perception: Why Be Afraid to Flaunt Straight A's?
Dateline: 02/06/14, Source: The Meat Site

Sustainability and welfare must be benchmarked in modern livestock production, industry spokesmen are telling producers this week in NUS - Sustainashville. This is according to figure heads at Tyson and McDonald's who acknowledged the growing need for labels and checklists in order to please an increasingly savvy consumer market, while addressing the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention in Tennessee.

Spearheading consumer awareness are animal welfare and sustainability, illustrated by US shoppers being willing to pay 20 per cent more for products denoting animal welfare friendly production. This statistic appeared in Dr Karen Genswein';s lecture to the NCBA in Nashville yesterday.

The Alberta animal welfare expert and technical adviser for the Canadian Beef Export Federation described how she had seen public concern rise dramatically over the last ten years.

This growing concern is being matched by a food industry response, which Dean Danilson, Vice President of Tyson Foods Office of Animal Well-Being said is coming in the form of check lists and audits.

He outlined Tyson's FarmCheck programme, which was rolled out across its pork division in 2012 and piloted across beef and poultry last year.

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Australian Beef Industry Faces Further Drought
Dateline: 02/06/14, Source: By Brian Robins, The Age
The next fortnight will prove to be critical to the near-term outlook for much of the Australian beef industry, which is facing the prospect of a deepening drought.

Ths will keep prices for some products under pressure, but with the prospect of significant price hikes if cyclone activity in northern Queensland becomes more active, boosting rainfall.

The worsening drought conditions throughout much of the key beef production areas of NSW and Queensland have occurred at the same time as extremely dry conditions beset both North and South America.

As a result, beef futures prices were recently pushed to long-term highs in trading in Chicago, with little prospect of a sustained downturn expected any time soon.

And the prospect of the failure of the second straight monsoon season in northern Australia means domestic beef prices may remain well supported, with flow-on effects for prices and demand for beef substitutes from lamb to poultry.

The prime beneficiaries of the dry weather include Australian producers and exporters of so-called manufactured beef, which is processed beef product targeted at the fast food trade in particular - primarily beef patties, with local prices for this product more than 400¢ a kilogram, which is historically high.

''Shipments here are helping to offset tough conditions elsewhere,'' Meat & Livestock Australia chief economist Tim McRae said.

There had been good rainfalls thanks to monsoons in the north of Queensland and also the Northern Territory, he said, but much of central and southern Queensland remained dry. As a result, many beef farmers are facing their second year of low rainfall.

Drought-Hit farmers Get Chance to Show Tony Abbott Parched Communities First Hand
Dateline: 02/17/14, Source: By Anna Henderson, Peter Lewis, ABC News Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told drought-affected farmers the Government is close to finalising an assistance package that addresses the economic and social needs of rural areas.

Mr Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce toured parts of New South Wales and Queensland on Sunday, giving farmers the chance to talk directly to them about the drought and how it is affecting rural communities.

Leadership Called for Ailing Beef Industry
Dateline: 02/07/14, Source: Wellington Tim

The Australian Beef Association is calling for peak industry organisations to stop sitting on their hands and start helping drought ravaged farmers.

There is a growing sense of urgency about the complete failure of any sort of a wet season, or even just some dam filling rain, for most of these regions.

A major social, and animal welfare catastrophe is happening as the drought tightens its grip in rural areas across Australia.

There is no grass, no water and no feed! It is clear thousands of cattle are dying every day, and many more will die.

Severely stressed farming families are under huge financial and social pressure with no potential for future income, and this will leave some rural communities in an economic wasteland.
Sadly some producers are now crippled because of debt, and cannot afford to buy more fodder, leaving cattle to die in their paddocks.

Newbeef Research Publications Available
Dateline: 052/05/14, Source: Wisconsin Farmer

From the 2014 Annual Cattle Industry Convention, three new checkoff-funded research publications were released:

Sustainability Executive Summary undefined A summary of Phase 1 of the research. This important work positions the beef industry to lead the conversations about industry sustainability and was first announced at the 2013 Annual Cattle Industry Convention.

Lean Matters booklet undefined This booklet documents the checkoff's effort to produce leaner beef and to work wit USDA to make the data reflecting the leaner option in the meat case available on the Nutrient Data Base.

Updated version of the Beef Cuts Guide.

B eef checkoff research provides technology and knowledge to all sectors of the beef supply chain to increase understanding of beef products offered to today's consumer.

Canada Beef Charting Its Own Course
Dateline: 02/04/10, Source: By Jennifer Blair Alberta Express

Rob Meijer says straw man report offers an 'interesting perspective' but Canada Beef has its own plan for boosting the fortunes of the beef industry.The newly formed Council of Beef Leaders may be missing a key player when it meets later this winter.

"The beef industry has enough structures and organizations and committees," said Rob Meijer, president of Canada Beef Inc. "We're not of the view that we need yet another one. We are nowhere near accepting of an advisory council."

The council is one of the key recommendations of the Straw Man Beef Industry Initiative,an effort aimed at finding a fix for some of the critical issues bedevilling Canada' s beef industry.

But Meijer said the report is just "a set of recommendations" that industry players could adopt at their own discretion.

"We take this and any other report with interest," he said."Where we are not at is taking the recommendations and building them into our strategy."

The recommendations from the report echo much of the work thatis already underway at Canada Beef, said Meijer. "I see a lot of us already in the report," he said, calling it an "indirect pat on the back."

Australian Beef Would Lose Out, Big-Time, Under Japan's Latest FTA offer
Dateline: 02/05/14, Source: By Jon Condon, Beef Central

Beef industry stakeholders and the broader agricultural community are re-emphasising the importance of achieving complete elimination of tariffs as part of comprehensive liberalisation of the agricultural sector in current negotiations with major trade partners.

The message, delivered by the National Farmers Federation in a press release this morning, comes as bi-lateral trade access discussions with Japan continue to progress, in parallel with broader Trans-Pacific Partnership discussions involving a basket of Pacific rim nations.

Reports coming out of Japan in the past 24 hours have indicated that the latest offer from Japan for beef access in the Japan-Australia FTA negotiation process falls alarmingly short of the Australian industry's expectations.

An item in Japan's Nikkei financial press yesterday has provided some insight into the extent of the current offer from Japan on beef tariffs. It suggests the tariff on chilled Australian beef imports would fall "from 38.5pc to about 30pc over 15 years", which could equate to a reduction in retail price of "nearly 10pc less" in Japanese retail stores, Nikkei reported.

Implied in the Nikkei article was the suggestion that by negotiating a 'softer' tariff outcome on beef with Australia, Japan might be better able to “convince the US to lessen its pressure for drastic tariff concessions” proposed under the broader TPP process.

"With Australia's new government, headed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said to be keen on concluding a two–way economic agreement with Japan, Japanese officials came up with the idea of playing the beef card last December," Nikkei reported. "Japan sees it as a possible advantage to be gained over the US on a broader TPP trade pact."

Beef Industry Requires Better Cost Control To Stay Competitive
Dateline: 02/03/14, Source: Farm Futures

U.S. consumers are shifting toward ground beef, but industry is focused on quality cuts

Changing consumer preferences and a production model tailored to the production of top-shelf steaks has put the U.S. cattle industry in a position losing market share to competitive proteins, according to a new report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group.

The report notes the industry needs to change the way beef is produced in order to remain competitive in the protein market.

"Under the existing business model, the U.S. cattle industry manages all fed beef as if it were destined for the center of the plate at a white table cloth restaurant," notes Rabobank cattle economist Don Close.

"The industry is, essentially, producing an extraordinarily high-grade product for consumers who desire to purchase a commodity. More than 60 of U.S. beef consumption is ground product. If the U.S. cattle industry continues to produce ground beef in a structure better suited to high-end cuts, the result will be continued erosion of market share," Close says.

Organic Beef on the Rise
Dateline: 02/03/14, Source: By Matthew Cawood, North Queensland Register

As the mainstream beef industry flounders in the doldrums of oversupply, more producers are turning to organic production to shore up returns.

It's hardly a mass movement: Australian Certified Organic reports that it has received 60 applications for organic certification over the past two years.

But this represents a 25 per cent jump in beef producer registrations, and the increase doesn't seem to have changed the supply constraints the organic beef sector operates under.

For producers in low–input environments, organic certification requires little or no change to management, but holds out the prospect of reliably better returns after the three-year certification process.

Andrew Walker from Moonbong Partnership, a third generation family beef operation based at Tambo in Central West Queensland, applied for organic certification in November 2012.

"We don't use buffalo fly spray – or hardly any other chemicals for that matter – when we finish the bullocks, so we thought we might as well be finishing them with organic status," Mr Walker said.

"We decided to become organically certified because the returns are much more significant. We can expect to get 55 cents more per kilo for a two tooth bullock weighing 300-340 kilograms, from $3.55 that we currently receive to $4.10 with organic status."

UK Cattle Slaughter at Record Low
Dateline: 02/03/14, Source:North Queensland

Prime cattle slaughter in the United Kingdom totalled 1.93 million head in 2013, down 2 per cent year-on-year, reports Meat and Livestock Australia.

According to EBLEX - the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry - it is likely that this is the lowest in approximately 65 years, as the UK cattle herd is at its lowest point since 1948.

The decline in 2013 was underpinned by fewer steers slaughtered, down 5pc year-on-year, despite an increase in heifer and young bull slaughter, up 1pc and 3pc.

A Lot to Talk About in the Beef Industry
Dateline: 02/14/14, Source: Drovers CattleNetwok, Iowa Beef Center

I have to be honest, as I sat down to write this column my head is spinning. The cattle markets are breaking through new barriers. Feed prices are moderate and everyone has a new feeder cattle price report story to top the last. Feedlot heifers are rumored to be in short supply as the herd expansion seems to be taking shape. McDonalds announced that they will move to verified sustainable beef by 2016. There is a proposal to increase imports from Brazil and rumors of potential of beef exports to China. Add to all this the observation that the drought monitor is beginning to show the development of some areas of drought potential in Iowa. There is a lot to talk about in the beef industry. Whew!

Later this month the USDA will publish its cattle report that should show the extent of the expansion of the beef herd. Analysts such as Iowa State's Dr. Lee Schulz will be pouring over these numbers and evaluating their significance. For producers, the prospects of moderate and more abundant feed costs along with higher prices are an opportunity to grow the industry. However, challenges exist as well, both long term and short term.

As part of our effort to identify those opportunities and challenges so profitable, sustainable growth of the industry will occur, you may be receiving a survey from the Iowa Beef Center.

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