What's in the news right now about environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain.

Executive Director's Message

There was a phrase that jumped out at me this week in the article on global food security: "the most benefit will come from helping the "worst agricultural performers" close the yield gaps by "moving the bottom" … from top producers to the bottom producers." This is in reference to all of agriculture, but it seemed to be a summary that represents what GRSB and the national roundtables and companies that are members are striving for.

I replaced one clause with an ellipsis, as it made reference to transferring best practices from top producers to bottom. While most people would understand that this does not mean that there is one "best" way of doing things, the phrase is overused, and likely to encourage lazy thinking about what good management consists of.

Management is not simply a question of implementing something that has been done elsewhere on the assumption that it will work in a new situation, but rather of making informed decisions under given circumstances based on as complete information as feasible. The main point of the article is that if producers, processors and retailers worldwide could produce as efficiently and sustainably as the best do already, our food security, environment, profitability and social performance would be considerably better than they are today, and that is a worthy aspiration.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
Global Conference on Sustainable Beef
October 4-7, 2016
Banff, Alberta
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Soil health is cropping up more regularly as a subject of importance to sustainability; not before time. Happily I am also picking up a few more articles on the positive role of livestock in farming system and ecosystem function. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how healthy soils could be maintained without livestock, or what would happen to the majority of the land we now use for food production.
Seven Projects Protecting Soils Around the World
Foodtank | February 27, 2016
The International Year of Soils came to a close on December 4, but that won't be the end of the work for many soil projects. According to United Nations Secretary–General Ban Ki–moon, "soils are the foundation of food systems" and "are critical to achieving food security and nutrition." Without governance and investment in measures to promote sustainable soil practices, further soil degradation could have enormous implications.

Global Food Security Group Calls For Reframing Debate
Tim Lundeen, Feedstuffs | March 2, 2016
A high–level and international group of food security leaders from across sectors has released an Aspen Institute report on "Public & Private Sector Interventions for Global Food Security," based on a multi–stakeholder roundtable dialogue.

The group was chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. The newly released primer recommends six integrating actions that both public and private sector leaders need to know for tackling long–term food security, particularly decision makers who are not necessarily steeped in the broader dialogue on these issues.

Understanding Producers' Motives for Adopting Sustainable Practices
Andres Trujillo–Barrera, Joost M.E. Pennings, & Dianne Hofenk, OUP Blog | March 2, 2016
Why would agricultural producers engage in practices such as conservation, animal welfare, waste management, or organic farming? The literature hints that economic, social, and personal motivations are drivers of adoption. Sustainable practices are welcomed by farmers if there is a potential increase in profitability through more efficient processes, or as a source of differentiation (i.e. labelling).

From a social perspective, sustainability has become a license to operate in food supply chains, where long-term viability depends on the fit between firm and society values. In addition, personal motivations are becoming more relevant, since we are undergoing increasing awareness on the importance of sustainability.

Sustainability Is Complex: There Is No Single Diet Solution
Sustainable Food Trust | February 19, 2016
We face huge challenges in feeding the world sustainably. But one thing is certain: grazing ruminant livestock – and the high-quality food they produce – can and should play a key role.
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KCoe Isom and K–State Open Registration for Beef Sustainability Dialogue
Sara Hessenflow Harper, AgWeb | February 19, 2016
Over the past year, I've had the privilege of working up–close and in–depth on beef sustainability issues. Whether it was working on my firm's partnership with Kansas State University's Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) or with Cargill in building a first–of–its–kind beef sustainability assessment program for feedyards; or learning from the industry–wide efforts coordinated through The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRB), it has been an amazing year filled with many great beef dinners!

Major Study Reveals How Beef Farmers Can Reduce Carbon Emissions and Boost Profits
Farming UK | February 23, 2016
McDonald's UK today announced the results of one of the largest ever independent carbon studies carried out with UK and Irish beef farms, based on over 1300 carbon assessments.

Launched by McDonald's UK Supply Chain Director Connor McVeigh at the 2016 NFU conference, the report identifies simple measures that can help beef farmers achieve the 11% voluntary carbon reduction target set by UK government for 2020.

Savory Institute Announces Dharma Lea as an Accredited Savory Hub
Digital Journal | February 27, 2016
The Savory Institute, an International, US–based, non–profit, announced that it has entered into an agreement with Dharma Lea to serve as a local hub for ecological, social and financial regeneration in New York and the surrounding Northeast states through education, training and consulting services.

Sustainability Conference: From Farms to the Final Product
International Leather Maker | February 25, 2016
With an increasing interest in sustainability, companies are facing challenges in providing solutions that promote best practice and transparency across their entire supply chain. In his presentation during the Sustainability Conference to be held on March 31 in Hong Kong, Fernando Bellese, Marketing and Sustainability Manager for JBS Couros, will demonstrate how an integrated approach, from farms to finished products, can contribute to more sustainable practices in the leather business and transparency within the market.

One Year Later: McDonald's Supply Chain, Sustainability Chief Francesca Debiase
Bob Langert, Green Biz | March 1, 2016
I couldn't wait to chat with Francesca DeBiase, one year after I retired from McDonald's. DeBiase assumed her lead sustainability role one year ago today.

A Chicago native from an immigrant family, and first in her family to get a college degree, she works now in the C–suite of the iconic brand, overseeing its beef, chicken lettuce and buns – as well as its 2020 Sustainability Framework focused on balanced menu choices, verified sustainable food and packaging, and climate change reduction.

DeBiase is also senior vice president of global supply chain sustainability.

JBS's Pre–Vaccination Feeder Program Gaining Momentum
Jon Condon, BEEF Central | February 18, 2016
The first livestock bought under JBS Australia's new pre–vaccinated feeder cattle program are now on–feed in the company's three NSW feedyards. Pre–vax was a popular topic at a series of producer days attended by around 550 stakeholders at JBS's southern feedyards recently.

Cargill To Supply Alberta Carcass Data To BIXS
Grainews | February 19, 2016
Cargill and BIXSCo, the CCA–backed operators of BIXS (Beef InfoXchange System), announced Thursday that the multinational agrifood firm will provide its past three years of beef carcass data from its High River, Alta. plant – plus all such future data going forward – in trust, for use in BIXS.

McDonald's Canada Announces Investment in Beef Research 
Jennifer Paige, Manitoba Co–operator | February 16, 2016
McDonald's Canada has put its money where its mouth is with an investment into the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative (MBFI).

"We are trying to balance being responsive to our customers and responsible to our downstream supply chain," said Jeffery Fitzpatrick–Stilwell, manager of sustainability and government relations for McDonald's Canada. "I really look at this investment as being a part of that responsible side. We are being responsible by supporting the science and research that will build up the capacity for Canadian agriculture to be even more sustainable."
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Droughts in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe are killing peoples' livestock, and thus depriving them of their livelihoods as well; spare a thought for those who have lost everything as a result. When we talk about transferring lessons from the top producers in the world to the bottom, we must also remember that there are a billion marginal or subsistence producers in developing countries whose livelihoods depend upon livestock, but who do not have resources to invest in improvements, even if they are aware of what needs to change. We should be identifying ways to close the gap for them, both to ensure their livelihoods and improve the efficiency of livestock everywhere.
The El Niño Drought Hits Livestock Hard In Zimbabwe  
Zimbabweland | February 22, 2016
The El Niño drought is hitting hard this year. Livestock in particular are suffering, as grass and water are scarce. Some fear that it could be as bad as 1991–92 when around a million cattle died.

To date some 7000 cattle mortalities have been recorded, the majority of which have been in Masvingo province, as well as Matabeleland. Government and aid agencies are encouraging farmers to destock, urging people to buy supplementary feed to save breeding stock. Drought task teams have been established in the affected provinces, and emergency feedlots are being established. It is a very serious situation.

Mongolia Appeals for Aid as "Dzud" Kills Livestock and Livelihoods
Joanna Chiu, DPA International | February 27, 2016
Nature has been hard on Mongolia. Little rain in summer followed by too much snow and cold in winter is killing off the country's livestock, leaving the people who depend on them in dire straits. Mongolia is experiencing a natural disaster called a dzud. The phenomenon usually occurs after a summer drought is followed by heavy snowfall that makes already meagre pastures inaccessible to livestock.

The national government appealed for international aid on Wednesday, stating that snow has covered more than 70 per cent of the territory and livestock losses have reached at least 125,000.

Soil Fungi Key to Grass Production
Kim Nielsen, Grainews | February 19, 2016
It seems the main key in the transformation of what we were seeing above the ground is really a result of what took place below the surface. It has been said if there is an abundance of plant species above ground there is an equal diverse abundance of microorganisms in the soil below.

Calls for Beef Farmers to Get Fair Share of the Margin  
Farming UK | March 2, 2016
NFU Scotland Livestock Committee is calling for a fairer share of the retail price of beef to be fed down the chain. Livestock chairman Charlie Adam said: "Many shoppers buying quality Scotch beef will be surprised to know that more than half the money they are paying is going to retailers and processors and the share going back to the farmer producing the beef is falling.

EU Exit Would 'Cripple' UK Livestock Sector
Johann Tasker, Farmers Weekly | March 3, 2016
The single market made reaching Europe's 500 million consumers simpler and generated £11bn for farmers and food producers, Defra secretary Liz Truss claimed. "About 60% of our food and drink exports go to the EU with no market access barriers. "For some of our farming sectors that rely on trade with Europe, facing the same import tariffs as other countries outside the EU would be crippling.

Beef Exporter Argentina Clears Way to Import Cattle from Uruguay
AgWeek | March 3, 2016
Argentina clinched a deal this week to import Uruguayan cattle for fattening and slaughter, underlining a push by new President Mauricio Macri to step up beef production as part of his farm sector reform plan.

Opinion: Aussie Processing Jobs Disappear Over the Horizon on a Boat
By Matt Journeaux, BEEF Central | February 22, 2016
JBS's Townsville export beef plant has postponed its scheduled seasonal start from February 29 to at least the end of March. No beef plant in Australia is as heavily exposed to the booming live export trade, and in this opinion piece, the AMIE's Matt Journeaux questions the economic and social impact he sees live exports as having on regional and rural economies, where most processors are located.

Beef Efficiency Doubts
The Scottish Farmer | February 25, 2016
The objective of the scheme is to help suckler herds become as efficient as possible via a range of improvements focusing on cattle genetics and management practice on–farm. ScotGov hope that the scheme will produce improved genetic selection in respect of growth rates, feed conversion, maternal behaviour, nutrition practice and disease resistance.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) listed HGP as the "naturally occurring" hormones trenbolone, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which are injected into local cattle. "HGPs are used safely in Australia," FSANZ said. "The hormones come in small implants placed under the skin on the back of the ear, slowly releasing a low dosage, usually over 100 to 200 days, depending on the product used."

With Drought Killing Their Livestock, Many Ethiopians Have No Other Source of Food Or Income
Oxfam | February 23, 2016
IWhen owning a herd of cows is like having money in the bank, losing it can mean terrible things for a family. But that's exactly what's happening to countless Ethiopian households as the worst drought in 30 years wipes out the livestock many use for food and income.

Across the country, where farmers rely largely on rain to feed their crops and water the pastures on which their animals depend, drought is pushing more than 10 million people into circumstances so dire they now need humanitarian aid. In December 2015, the Ethiopian government issued an appeal for $1.4 billion to help it respond. Donors have stepped up to fund only 48 percent of the appeal so far.

EU Donates €8m to Fight Foot and Mouth
Mthandazo Nyoni, News Day | February 19, 2016
The fund, expected to run over a four–year period under the theme Increased household food, income and nutrition security through commercialisation of an integrated and sustainable smallholder livestock sector in Zimbabwe, is being implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in partnership with Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services and two non–governmental organisations – Help Germany and Lead.

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