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Dear GRSB Member,

Two major negative stories about the beef industry have come to light since the last issue of GRSB connect; one, the release of the film "Cowspiracy" and the second, an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Eshel et al which sets out to demonstrate that producing beef is ten times more damaging to the planet than chicken or pork production.

Through the existence of GRSB we, and our members have acknowledged that there are things in the global beef industry that can and need to be improved and we have started on the road to addressing the issues. What both the film and the PNAS article do, as is becoming common, is to set up an a priori case that beef is bad, and then look for data to support it. This tests the readers credulousness, as in order to support their case, the authors of the PNAS article had to look back to 1970s USDA data, and incorporate erroneous assumptions such as that cattle are fed grain for their entire life. To compound this lack of reasoning the article has been quoted in many countries, including those where the beef industry is structured radically differently to in the US, with the implicit message that it applies everywhere.

Once again, the point that is being missed here is that we have 4 billion ha (10 billion acres) of grassland in the world that are not well suited to growing crops; that is 27% of the land we have and 70% of agricultural land. Several hundred million acres are degraded. We need to feed 9 billion people in 2050, and managing grasslands well and restoring degraded land represents one of the largest potential carbon sinks on the planet, as well as a significant part of the world's biodiversity. Finishing cattle is most efficiently done utilising some grain, which also acts as a buffer to global grain peaks and troughs. While the merits of various proteins are being discussed in papers, large areas of forest and biodiverse savannahs and grasslands are being converted to grow soy and other crops to which they are poorly suited. Is this really more sustainable than producing ruminant livestock?

Beef consumption has been falling in western industrialised countries for years, while consumption is increasing in developing countries where there is a greater chance of finding unsustainable practices, and where no–one is listening to a western urban agenda. We need to help improve things for a growing population, rather than pretending that if we selectively repeat (and distort) what the problems are often enough they will eventually go away. The only way to achieve meaningful change is through dialogue, not mud slinging.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Sustainability News

Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Conference in Brazil

Dateline: 7/21/14, Source: Drovers CattleNetwork

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), announced today that it will host the first Global Conference on Sustainable Beef at the World Trade Events Center in São Paulo, Brazil, Nov. 2–5, 2014. As part of the conference, GRSB will release its long–anticipated definition of global sustainable beef and highlight exciting new developments in beef sustainability.

"GRSB is a global, multi–stakeholder organization focused on improving the sustainability of the beef value chain. We view sustainability as a journey of continuous improvement where economic, societal and environmental factors are balanced to achieve sustainable outcomes" said Cameron Bruett, president of GRSB and head of corporate affairs for JBS USA, the North American subsidiary of JBS S.A., the world's largest meat processing company, which is headquartered in Brazil. "It is imperative that the broad spectrum of stakeholders involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and consumption of beef, as well as civil society and allied industries, work together to develop a deeper understanding of sustainability and what it means to their sector, their operations, our society and our planet."

The conference's theme, "Sustainable Beef: Building a Vision for Our Future," sets the framework for the roll–out of GRSB's principles and criteria, which define sustainable beef and identifies the means to measure progress in the global sustainable beef chain at the national or regional levels. With speakers from around the globe, the conference will also provide a forum for regional sustainability initiatives to showcase their efforts and successes.

Roundtable to Assess Beef Sector Sustainability

Dateline: 07/14/14, Source: By Barbara Duckworth, The Western Producer

An Alberta rancher has been named chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. The group is part of a global initiative, but the ambitious plan could set Canadian beef in a class by itself, said Cherie Copithorne–Barnes.

Canada is among the 65 members of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef that formed less than four years ago, but it may be the first to meet many of the international initiative's goals because of its verified beef program, sound food safety practices and good environmental record.

It is relatively easy for Canada to meet specifications because nearly all the company's beef comes from Cargill and a pattie plant in Edmonton. Sustainability is a difficult concept, but the global roundtable agreed to a definition in March that can be applied to beef producers anywhere, said Cameron Bruett, head of sustainability for JBS and president of the Global Roundtable.

Key Principals Needed to Sustain Grassland Conservation

Dateline: 07/18/14, Source: By Pete Bauman, SDSU, Watertown Public Opinion

Sustainability. It's a very popular word, but what does it really mean? Back in March the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef attempted to steer the discussion on sustainable beef through their widely distributed paper on the topic. While stopping short of defining sustainable beef, they did offer five core principals of sustainability to consider including: natural resources; people and community; animal health and welfare; food, and efficiency and innovation. Further, they went on to promote the concepts of the ‘triple bottom line' approach to sustainability in regard to social responsibility, environmental soundness, and economic viability. In the end, the report acknowledges the complexities involved in trying to define what sustainable means at a local scale.

Sustainability not only implies good intent but also an understanding of actions, impacts, and improvements.

US Beef Industry Lambasts Environment Link Study

Dateline: 07/23/14, Source: By Ed Bedington, Global Meat News

US beef bosses have branded a study, which claims beef production was around 10 times more harmful to the environment than other protein productions, as a "gross over–simplification".

Kim Stackhouse–Lawson, director of sustainability research with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), said:
"The PNAS study represents a gross over–simplification of the complex systems that make up the beef value chain, a point which the authors acknowledge. The fact is the US beef industry produces beef with lower greenhouse gas emissions than any other country. The conclusions in this study only serve to confuse consumers about the fact that including beef as part of a healthy diet can co–exist with a healthy environment in the US, as recently evidenced by the beef lifecycle assessment."

Cattle Industry Association Says Study Damning Beef Production Misses the Big Picture

Dateline: 07/22/14, Source: By Stephanie Froese, 660 News, Canadian Business

The Canadian Cattleman's Association says people need to look at the bigger picture after a new study labelled beef as significantly more environmentally damaging than other animal production.

The National Academy of Sciences published the findings that show raising cattle causes significantly more greenhouse gases, water consumption, and takes up more land compared to operations like poultry or dairy production.

Fawn Jackson, Manager of Environment and Sustainability at the Canadian Cattleman's Association, said it's difficult to accurately show the full benefits and environmental implications of cattle production.

Our Members

Members In The News

Union, JBS Reach Agreement at Greeley Plant

Dateline: 07/23/14, Source: Meat Poultry News

Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 ratified a new labor contract with the JBS USA beef processing plant in Greeley.

"Congratulations to our JBS members! The new contract was ratified with a historic turnout and an overwhelming vote to accept the new contract," the union said on its website. "It was a long and hard struggle that ended with a great victory for our JBS members."

Namibia Agrees to Sign EPA Agreement

Dateline: 07/18/14, Source: All Africa

Namibia has agreed to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union (EU) after a deal between the Southern African Development Community negotiating group and the European Commission was concluded.

Meatco spokesperson Mario Poolman said last year, Namibia exported 10 229 tonnes of beef to the EU valued at N$613 million. He said economic benefits for Namibia as a result of beef exports to the EU are enormous, since the EU is by far the country's most valuable market, especially for high–value beef cuts.

"Namibia's beef industry is able to realise huge returns from the EU market, which in turn contributes to the GDP," he said.

Global News

Introducing Yak, the Other Red Meat

Dateline: 07/15/14, Source: By Sarah McColl, Take Part

You may have heard yak talk before. In the low–cholesterol rage of the '80s and '90s, yaks dotted exotic game ranches west of the Mississippi and appeared alongside bison on "heart–healthy" burger menus. The yak's big breakout moment happened at Denver's National Western Stock Show in the late '90s, when its reputation as an easy, more docile alternative to bison spread like prairie brush fire–then was promptly extinguished. Now, business is booming again.

Beef Farmers Urged to Slaughter Sooner

Dateline: 07/16/14, Source: The Cattle Site

Cattle are being kept too long on many of Britain's beef farms at the expense of farmers' pockets and the environment. Typical Weights tend to 'flat line' after 18 months with many animals being kept on far beyond this point, a Royal Agricultural Society of England beef technology seminar heard this month.

Future Beef Leader Focused on Herd Fertility

Dateline: 07/16/14, Source: ABC Rural AU

The northern cattle industry is preparing the next generation of producers to step–up and lead the sector. For Stuart Austin, a career in the northern cattle industry has always been part of the plan. He says improving herd fertility will be one of the greatest challenges faced by the next generation of cattle producers.

"That's where one of my greatest passions is, around fertility and reproduction in a herd," he said.

WA Beef Industry Welcomes News of Higher Prices

Dateline: 07/15/14, Source: ABC Rural AU

Meat and Livestock Australia has released it's mid–year projections for the cattle industry and it's good news for producer bank balances. With cattle numbers still falling and demand for beef strong, prices are expected to rise for some time yet and could rise by as much as 40 per cent.

Why Ranchers Should Care About The Documentary "Cowspiracy"

Dateline: 07/21/14, Source:By Amadna Radke, BEEF Magazine

A new documentary entitled, "Cowspiracy," paints the beef business in a very negative light, citing cattle as the sole reason we have sustainability issues on our planet. Ranchers will need to "beef" up on their beef production facts to help balance out the conversation about sustainability and animal agriculture.

According to the trailer (for "Cowspiracy"), this industry is responsible for global warming, water shortages, methane emissions, species extinction, and the ocean dead zones. "Cowspiracy" places the blame on livestock production.

A Shameless Foodie & Her Ranching Dad Sit Down for a Medium–Rare Opportunity

Dateline: 07/02/14, Source: By Darby Minow Smith,

I talked to my dad for an hour (video clips here), and in that time, I realized things I never learned on the ranch:

Our definitions of sustainability are different. Farming and ranching are very different beasts. He's both more hopeful and less idealistic about what the food movement can do. While our ranch can do better, it still meets both of our definitions of sustainable.

News We Can Use

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