GRSB Connect For April 2, 2014

Dear GRSB Member,

Our Principles and Criteria have now been out for public comment for two weeks. I include here a selection of the articles that have appeared as a result of this. It would be useful for members to read a broad range of these to understand some of the issues we face in different arenas. While some have attempted to characterize GRSB as "an industry group with no sustainability expertise or civil society involvement,” other publications prefer to think that “every one of them [GRSB member] is a stalking horse for extreme green and anti industry values.”

As active members of GRSB, we know these media assumptions could not be further from the truth. We must remember that when negative articles about our Roundtable are printed, the truth of the article is less important than the perception it conveys to the public. In media, perception is reality. People often believe what they read and without a firm, principled stand from members like you, these negative stories and inaccurate characterizations of our good work to date will become the reality.

I would personally like to commend our Australian GRSB members for their principled and transparent responses to erroneous media reports. We are fortunate to have such dedicated partners in Australia who believe in the GRSB vision. As such, I urge all of our members to be proactive in their engagement – both with the media and with individuals. If we allow ourselves to be portrayed in a negative light without challenge, these negative impressions of our Roundtable will take root.

We will not change the minds of the most radical opponents on either side, but we can expose readers who prefer to make their own minds up to a more balanced story. Brandon Tidwell, Darden Restaurants, heads our communication committee and is coordinating media responses and communications. He can be reached at this address.

Despite any negative reactions from the media or the skeptics, let us not forget our collective mission to identify solutions that can deliver benefits to producers, the industry, the environment and society as a whole. I am proud to stand alongside all of you as we work to ensure a future where  all aspects of the beef value chain are environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

Ruaraidh  Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Roundtable Update

McDonald's Definition of "Sustainable": Brought to You by the Beef Industry

Dateline: 03/20/14, Source: Mother Jones, by Dana Liebelson

In January, McDonald's announced that it will begin the transition to sustainable beef in 2016. The plan was met with skepticism, since it didn't actually define "sustainable." In the weeks that followed, McDonald's continued working with a group called the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) to come up with a working definition of the term, and on Monday, GRSB released a draft of its definition for public comment. In addition to McDonald's, GRSB's new set of sustainability guidelines will also be implemented by the group's other members, which include Walmart, Darden Restaurants (the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), Cargill, Tyson Foods, and the pharmaceutical company Merck.


Producers Must Engage to Define Beef Sustainability

Dateline: 03/17/14, Source: The Rural, Au

The Cattle Council of Australia is urging producers to engage with the draft Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Beef when they are released for a sixty-day consultative period next week. The Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Beef are being developed by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), of which the Cattle Council of Australia is a member. The draft Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Beef, available next week, are intended to be a high level document, however the significance that the document holds for beef producers cannot be understated and producer participation during the consultative period is integral.


Who Wouldn’t Want Sustainable Beef?

Dateline: 03/17/14, Source: Drovers CattleNetwork

Sustainability means different things to different people. "If we're not sustainable in what we do, we're out of business," said Nebraska cattleman Bill Rishel. "Many of us in the cattle business grew up thinking of sustainability as making enough money to keep ranching the next year. Of course that meant we had to care for our natural resources and manage them in a responsible way. That's not as obvious to today's consumer," he said, "so we need to be part of this movement to redefine the concept."


What Is Beef Sustainability?

Dateline: 03/18/14, Source: Beef Central, by James Nason

What is sustainable beef production? Does it relate to environmentally-friendly land management, socially-responsible farming practices, financially-profitable beef production enterprises, or all of the above? And, once defined, how can the global beef industry effectively demonstrate to consumers that its product is indeed “sustainable”, and what is that process likely to mean for producers at farm-level? All of these questions are currently in the spotlight as the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef looks to progress its vision to achieve sustainable beef production systems and value chains around the world.


Fleshing Out the Incredibly Vague Concept of 'Sustainable Beef'

Dateline: 03/20/14, Source: Bloomberg Business Week, by Venessa Wong

Should 'sustainable beef' mean organic? Locally sourced? Grass-fed? It's still all up in the air, even as McDonald's (MCD) and others commit to serving such beef in the foreseeable future. Alas, the answer to the sustainable meat mystery likely won’t be that specific. The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a multi-industry group that’s trying to give some shape to the term, released draft principles and criteria (PDF) this week for understanding the term. The draft will be open for public comment through May 16.


'Social Responsibility' Important Factor for Restaurant Consumers

Dateline: 03/27/14, Source:QSRWeb

Consumers want to be more informed of the food they are eating and the way in which an operator or supplier is growing or preparing their food, according to new research from Technomic. Suppliers, therefore, have an opportunity to provide fresh/natural foods and help operators tell the story.


Boswell Attacks 'Sustainable' Beef

Dateline: 03/27/14, Source: Queensland Country Life, by Colin Bettles

Queensland LNP Senator Ron Boswell has delivered a stinging speech attacking moves to force Australian cattle producers into verifying 'sustainable beef'. He warned cattle producers may be forced to wear the scheme's compliance costs, to keep environmental groups in business and "provide a marketing point-of-difference for the likes of McDonald’s".


Wrong Way CCA, Go Back

Dateline: 03/31/14, Source: North Queensland Register, by David Leyonhjelm

The Cattle Council of Australia is currently inviting comments on a verification system for sustainable beef which will comprise the basis for certification under the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. There are quite a number of industry roundtables, both in Australia and internationally. They are, in all but name, an extortion racket. Every one of them is a stalking horse for extreme green and anti-industry values. If the beef roundtable becomes widely established in Australia, it will bring nothing but harm and grief to beef production.


Cattle Council, WWF Defend Sustainable Beef Talks

Dateline: 03/24/14, Source:

The Cattle Council of Australia has defended its participation in an effort to come up with global principles for sustainable beef production. The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef brings together grazier representatives, with major international retailer and processors, as well as environmental groups. Last week, it released a set of draft principles for sustainable beef production and processing.


Meeting the Consumers’Demand for Sustainable Beef Production

Dateline: 03/28/14, Source: Alberta Farm Express by Fawn Jackson


The market appears to be sending a strong signal that consumers want sustainable products, and furthermore, they want proof. McDonald's has announced a commitment to source verified sustainable beef by 2016. A&W currently claims its beef has been raised by producers at the leading edge of sustainable production practices and Walmart continually promises to deliver more sustainable agricultural products. Although the precise definition of sustainable beef and how sustainable beef production is proven continues to be a mystery, the role of research, technology, innovation and communication holds steadfast as the foundation for making 'sustainable' decisions by all members of the value chain.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has been taking great strides to ensure that Canadian cattle producers are appropriately prepared to address this growing demand.

Sustainable Intensification in Farming

Dateline: 03/26/14, Source: Big Picture Agriculture, by K. McDonald

Ramadjita Tabo, a member of The Montpellier Panel and deputy executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), recently described the recent rather divisive nature of academic discussions on the viability of the ‘sustainable intensification’ of agriculture. Sustainable intensification, an agricultural development pathway that aims to reconcile food production and environmental protection, is a highly politicised term that divides academics and practitioners alike.


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Members In The News

Big Push for PCAS Cattle from Teys, as Woolies Adopts Pasturefed

Dateline: 03/31/14, Source:BEEF Central by Jon Condon

A milestone decision by Woolworths to introduce a pasturefed beef offer to customers has led to processor, Teys Australia substantially lifting its premiums for cattle eligible for the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance Program. Teys says there will be a need for many more producers to join the PCAS program in order to fill the supply agreement with Woolworths and export markets, with first eligible cattle due to be processed for the project from May 1. In another significant development – perhaps unprecedented in the Australian grassfed beef supply chain – Teys Australia says it is prepared to offer forward pricing guarantees on PCAS cattle up to four months in advance. Initially, prices will be available for May, June, July and August delivery.


What Does It Mean to be Rainforest Alliance Certified?

Dateline: 03/06/14, Source: Tico Times

At the end of February, the Rainforest Alliance announced that a cattle farm in Turrialba was the first in Costa Rica to receive its certification. This sounded like good news for the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center, better known as CATIE, the organization that owns the farm. But what does it mean to be Rainforest Alliance certified?


McDonald’s Calls for Younger and Older Jobs to Save 'Workforce Cliff'

Dateline: 03/31/14, Source: Caterer and Hotel Keeper, by Hannah Thompson

McDonald’s Europe has called on hospitality companies to push for recruitment among younger and older workers, after research from the European Commission found that the working age population is shrinking. The fast food company, which employs more than 425,000 people across Europe including franchisees, has labelled the problem the “workforce cliff” and defined it as too many older people leaving the workforce, and not enough younger people joining.


Tyson Foods Recognised as Trustworthy Company

Dateline: 03/31/14, Source: World Poultry


Tyson Foods Recognised as Trustworthy Company Dateline: 03/31/14, Source: World Poultry For the second time in as many months, one of the US’s leading business magazines has ranked Tyson Foods, among the most outstanding companies in the nation. Forbes selects "America's 100 Most Trustworthy Companies" each year, with Tyson Foods making its debut on the 2014 list, ranking sixth among large-cap companies. In February, the company was among "America's Most Admired Companies," as selected by Fortune.

More Global News

Nats Lobby Hard to Destroy ‘Cattle Tax’ before It Starts

Dateline: 03/27/14, Source: The Australian via Press Display

Senior Nationals are moving to scuttle an environmental certification scheme for beef producers backed by WWF and McDonald's.The Nationals warn that the scheme will increase costs in the industry and that graziers who refuse to sign up could be locked out of beef markets. Veteran Nationals senator Ron Boswell attacked the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, likening it to 'green mail' and warning that it needed to explain the process for proving 'sustainability' and the costs.


US Beef Cattle Herd Decline Could Have Bottomed Out Says USDA Expert

Dateline: 03/27/14, Source: Global Meat News, by Alan Osborn

Beef production in the USA could be lower this year than in 2013, even though there are indications that the long decline in the national cattle herd may be at an end, a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) expert has told GlobalMeatNews. Dr Kenneth H Mathews, senior cross-commodity analyst for the animal proteins cluster at USDA’s economic research service, was commenting in a USDA report that the inventory of all cattle and calves in the US in 2013 was 87.7 million head, down 1.8% from one year ago. This was the continuation of an eight-year decline and represented the smallest total US cattle herd since 1951.


Steps to Improve Cow Herd Efficiency

Dateline: 03/21/14, Source: AGWeb K-State University News Release, by Katie Allen

Business owners are often challenged to find time to sit down, analyze data, and strategize to make their business more profitable and successful. A beef cow/calf operation is one such business, and improving feed efficiency is a main profit-driver.Bob Weaber, beef breeding, genetics and cow/calf specialist for K-State Research and Extension, said feed efficiency is converting pounds of feed resources, whether that is a concentrated diet in a feedlot or a diet of range and pasture forage, into pounds of calf gain.


Beef industry Should Take Heart and Invest

Dateline: 03/21/14, Source: Farming UK

The latest sets of 2013 farm accounts suggest that an increase in variable costs was one of the factors which pushed the beef industry into a downturn last year. But Lloyds Bank's James Thornton says the sector should take confidence from the large number of producers who still managed to turn a profit. "Last year was certainly a challenge," he says.


Namibia:Springbockvley Blossoms Via Rangeland Management

Dateline: 03/25/14, Source: All

The drastic increased production and profits per hectare through Rangeland Management on the farm Springbockvley was highlighted as an exemplary example of how sustainable livestock farming in semiarid regions greatly depend on the sound management of the natural rangeland as the resource for livestock sustenance at last week's second Meat production School, hosted by the Namibian Stock Breeders Association.


Rejecting Meat Industry Arguments, Judge Upholds Country of Origin Label for Cuts of Meat

Dateline: 03/28/14, Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, by: Mary Clare, Jaonick, Associated Press

Shoppers who want to buy American beef for dinner instead of meat from Canada or Mexico will still be able to find the country of origin on the label. A federal appeals court ruling Friday allows the government to go forward with rules that require labels on packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to say where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. The meat industry attempted to block the rules, which went into effect last year, saying they are costly and provide no health benefits to the consumer.