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


Executive Director's Message

Welcome to Connect and for those of you attending the board meeting, welcome to Chicago. During the meeting yesterday I mentioned that I do not add stories such as "meat is madness" below to annoy you, though I am myself frustrated by them. I include them here to give a view of what the consumer is exposed to in mainstream media.

My impression is that the general tone of such articles is harsher in Europe than in other regions and that they are also carried in more mainstream publications in Europe. The issue is that consumers constantly exposed to such messages, and policy makers exposed to the publications of such think tanks as Chatham House, do gradually change in their attitude to meat.

We are at the stage now where this is an opportunity for GRSB and there is certainly a role for us to play to change this one sided diatribe into more of a genuine dialogue which can then discuss solutions and bring such articles as the Teague et al one below, that underline the positive role of ruminants in agriculture and environment to public recognition.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Global Conference on Sustainable Beef
October 4-7, 2016
Banff, Alberta


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The Role of Ruminants in Reducing Agriculture's Carbon Footprint in North America
W.R. Teague, S. Apfelbaum, R. Lal, U.P. Kreuter, J. Rowntree, C.A. Davies, R. Conser, M. Rasmussen, J. Hatfield, T. Wang, F. Wang and P. Byck. , Journal of Soil and Water Conservation | March/April 2016
An alternative view of the respective role of crops and livestock in the carbon cycle, with a conclusion that regenerative management and soil conservation requires ruminant livestock to reduce GHGs from agriculture. (PDF of whole article).

Tyson Sets Water Reduction Timeline  
Bob Sims, Food Business News | April 1, 2016
Tyson Foods' touted its ongoing efforts toward expanding water conservation in the third segment of its sustainability report, which covers information on the company's environmental stewardship.

"We're setting a 12% water reduction goal by the end of 2020 for our direct operations and will talk with our supply chain, such as the independent farmers who grow animals for our company, about additional efforts they can make to conserve water," said Christine Daugherty, vice–president of sustainable food production for Tyson. "Water conservation has been an important area of focus for Tyson Foods for many years. Water is a precious, finite resource and we need to manage it responsibly from farm to finished product."

Steering Group Commences Work on Beef Sustainability Framework
Beef Central | April 4, 2016
Work to develop a sustainability framework for Australian beef production is now underway according to the steering group recently formed to tackle the task.

Why Sustainability Is Important to You
Burt Rutherford, BEEF Magazine | April 6, 2016
A study by the Center for Food Integrity shows that 60% of those surveyed strongly agree when asked, if food animals are treated decently and humanely, they would have no issue with eating meat. That, says Scott Anderson, manager of CRI Feeders in Guymon, Okla., is the good news. The bad news? "However, of that same group, only 25% believe that's true," he says.

Tops in Beef Sustainability
Barbara Duckworth, The Western Producer | April 7, 2016
Canada is a star on the world stage when it comes to sustainability on the ranch, says Dennis Laycraft, the new chair of the Global Round Table on Sustainable Beef Production.

"I am pretty proud of the progress we have made in Canada," he said at the Canadian Cattlemen's Association annual meeting last month. Research has shown that the Canadian beef industry is leaving a small carbon hoof print.

A recent study from Agriculture Canada and the University of Manitoba measured changes in greenhouse gas emissions of Canadian beef production from 1981–2011 and found a 15 percent improvement in 30 years.

Case Study – Science Proves It's Possible to Breed Green Livestock
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia's Farming Future: Climate Change Research Program

Science proves it's possible to breed green livestock Livestock producers are used to selecting the bulls or rams they wish to buy with particular traits. Growth rate, calving or lambing ease, fertility rates, are all high on the list when looking for that perfect sire. But one day it just might be possible to select sheep or cattle that also have a smaller environmental footprint with Australian scientists proving that it is possible to breed livestock that produce less methane.

The world–class research conducted in Armidale, New South Wales, was just one part of 39 research projects coordinated by Meat & Livestock Australia through the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (RELRP). The RELRP was funded through the Australian Government's $46.2 million Climate Change Research Program (CCRP). The RELRP national program co–ordinator, Dr Julian Hill, said the RELRP, has delivered new knowledge in five main areas: genetics and animal selection, nutrition, rumen microbiology, farming systems and waste management.

Beef Sustainability and Consumer Perception – Change Happens
Bryan Weech, BEEF Magazine | April 14, 2016
If anyone thinks the beef industry is too big or too "cowboy" to be forced into change, take a look at what is happening in the pork and egg industries. Due to legislative action brought about by ballot initiative, the use of sow crates are being forced out across multiple states. Similarly, cage–free eggs are becoming a requirement at a growing number of retailers and restaurants chains across the country, with new commitments from major retailers announced seemingly daily.

Setting aside the debate about whether the use of sow crates and cages in egg production is good or bad, an interesting aspect to consider is that the ability of "popular demand" to change the practices of entire animal agriculture industries (pork & egg) has grown in proportion to the evolution of social media.

A logical question is, will activists now set their sights on the beef industry? If there are practices in the beef industry that could be questioned by consumer groups far removed from production agriculture, then the simple answer is a resounding yes!

Environmental Hourglass  
Malcolm Flanagan, Agra Europe | April 8, 2016
While visiting GRSB members in Italy last week I was introduced to the concept of the environmental hourglass; very clearly and attractively presented in this report by carni sostenibili (Summary Report PDF).

Supercharging Sustainability Metrics With Science
Mike Hower, Green Biz | April 12, 2016
Science has helped identify, quantify and measure some of the world's most pressing sustainability challenges — including climate change, water scarcity and land use — but companies traditionally have set sustainability goals in the same way they would other business goals. Often, businesses set conventional sustainability goals that stakeholders expect — that either reach for the low–hanging fruit or grasp for incremental and often random stretch goals.

But because these goals are not always intertwined with the core sustainability issues surrounding the business, firms struggle to maintain a consistent sustainability narrative. Some companies openly tout their sustainability successes, while others may be doing cool things but opt not to talk about it. Others may admit they are "sustainable" but preface it with the claim that "sustainability is a property of the entire socio–economic system and may not be achieved by the actions of a simple company."

Corporate Sustainability Is Growing Up, But Can It Evolve?
Mike Hower, Green Biz | December 14, 2015
Corporate sustainability has grown and matured in the past decade, but there is a widening gap between organizations with strong sustainability commitments and those without in terms of activities, attitudes and infrastructure, according to new research from Siemens.

And within those companies already embracing sustainability, there is a growing divide between chief sustainability officers and the C–Suite related to the role of sustainability and the impact it has on the organization. Meanwhile, the CSO community's own view of its influence and impact continues to change.

Study Finds Cattle May Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ag
Christopher Doering, The Des Moines Register | April 8, 2016
Iowa and other Corn Belt states could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by raising more cattle and cutting back on traditional crops such as corn and soybeans, according to a study co–authored by an Iowa State University researcher.

The study reviewed the impact cattle have on greenhouse gas emissions by comparing their environmental footprint with other forms of agriculture. While cattle produce greenhouse gas methane when they chew and digest food, row crops have a bigger impact on the environment because of the increased soil erosion that later results in the release of carbon emissions.

Union of Concerned Scientists | April, 2016
"Beef. It's what's for dinner," according to a classic marketing campaign. Whether or not this is true in your home, beef is definitely the main course on the global deforestation menu.

While many commodities are driving deforestation today, all of them take a back seat to beef cattle. It's old news that beef is the biggest deforestation driver in Latin America, but recent research suggests that it's also #1 globally.

In the countries that account for most of the deforestation caused by the four major drivers, beef is responsible for more than twice as much deforestation as the other three commodities combined.

Meat Is Madness: Why It Leads to Global Warming and Obesity
John Gibbons, The Irish Times | April 9, 2016
Globally, the production of just meat and dairy products generates 14.5 per cent of all emissions – more than the output of every car, bus, lorry, train and ship in the world, combined. The influential UK think tank Chatham House –formally the Royal Institute of International Affairs – in 2014 found low public awareness of the true costs of dietary choices. But "consumers with a higher level of awareness were more likely to indicate willingness to reduce their meat and dairy consumption for climate objectives".

One Health Colloquium: Sustainable Livestock, Disease Control, Climate Change and the Refugee Crisis
Chatham House | April 2016
In light of growing understanding and awareness of the interactions between the livestock industry and the environment, and how it relates to poverty reduction and nutritional well–being in both industrialized and developing countries, the Centre on Global Health Security is convening representatives from the World Health Organization, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, World Organisation for Animal Health, the World Bank and leading private sector groups and academic institutions to discuss the role of livestock in poverty reduction, sustainable livestock production, the value of a World One Health day for humans and animals, and innovation in vaccines and diagnostics.

Companies Get Serious About Water Use  
Richard Anderson, BBC News | April 13, 2016
Water is unlike any other commodity on Earth. For a start, we can't live without it, for very obvious reasons.

But it also underpins pretty much every activity we pursue in life – not just in our everyday lives, but in growing food, energy production and industry both large and small–scale.

Water is also unique in that it's pretty much indestructible – unlike most resources, it doesn't break down when heated up, but evaporates, constantly changing form to be transported to another place at another time. But water can no longer be seen as an infinite resource as shortages become ever more commonplace across the world.
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Poverty Reduction Through Intensification of Smallholder Ranches in Indigenous Reserves in The Brazilian Amazon (PDF)
Solidaridad with ABCZ and Aliança da Terra
This challenging project in the Eastern Xingu region of the State of Mato Grosso (Brazil) managed to alleviate poverty in one of the poorest municipalities and to protect the environment in a region that was once famous for its deforestation. Many families in the region used to sell their plots after 7 to 10 years to move deeper into the forest, as to continue their cycle of subsistence living. By improving livestock productivity in the settlement of Santo Antonio da Mata Azul, a community of more than 300 families, and in Maraiwatsede Indigenous Reserve in Xingu river basin, the Farmer Support Programme (FSP) used the beef market to inch these families towards a better future.

Frieslandcampina Upsizes Green Schuldschein to €300m
Environmental Finance | April 8, 2016
Dairy company FrieslandCampina has priced and upsized its green Schuldschein, raising €300 million ($341 million). Hans Biemans, head of sustainability at Rabobank – green structuring advisor for the bond – said it was a "landmark deal", pointing out that this is the first dairy company to issue a green bond. Friesland has said that 75% of the bond proceeds will be used to refinance existing projects.
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US Beef Imports Reach Highest Levels In 11 Years – Over 1m Tonne Imported In 2015  
Sean Cummins, Agriland | April 3, 2016
Changes in the currency market also had a negative impact on the US beef industry, making its beef more expensive to other countries, the AHDB reports. But, the strengthening of the Dollar compared to the euro has made Irish and European beef cheaper on the US market, meaning that US beef buyers could potentially look at the EU to supply its beef requirement.

Grass–Fed Market –– And Claims – Grow
Agri–View | April 3, 2016
"We're all impacted by the U.S. beef industry, even if we sell beef direct," said Allen Williams to attendees of the recent Grass–Fed Beef Success Workshop in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

The United States saw prices for all classes of beef cattle decline between 23 percent and 25 percent since August 2015. Beef exports were down 18 percent in 2015, while imports were up 33 percent.

But this bad news is tempered by the grass–fed–beef industry, which is growing at an annual rate of 25 percent to 30 percent. Consumers who had not been eating much beef recently have been attracted by grass–fed meat for a variety of reasons. Those includes taste preferences as well as growing consumer interest in the way animals are raised and handled. Today grass–fed beef has more than 7 percent of the U.S. beef market, Williams said.

The introduction of grass–fed beef hamburgers in large fast–food restaurants has been one of the factors stimulating market growth.

Stockmanship, Low–Stress Environments Are Keys, Vet Says  
Martha Blum, Agri News | April 2, 2016
The beef industry is going to move from a commodity–based business to an attribute–based marketing system. "Over the last 30 years, the super centers have replaced small grocery stores, and they have different purchasing desires," said Dr. Jim Lowe, associate professor in the College of Veterinarian Medicine at the University of Illinois.

"The top four retailers — Kroger, Walmart, Publix and Safeway — control 40 percent of the market in the U.S.," Lowe said during a presentation at the Illinois Cattle Feeders Day. "Costco wants to differentiate from Walmart, and they prefer to compete on attributes." One of those attributes likely will be beef from cattle raised without hormones. One way for Illinois cattlemen to improve their advantage over other producers is to do a better job of stockmanship to improve cattle performance.

Mexican Beef Exports Continue To Grow  
Derrell S. Peel, Drovers CattleNetwork | April 4, 2016
Mexican beef exports have grown rapidly in recent years. Total beef exports began increasing in 2009 and have increased from about 28 thousand metric tons in 2008 to over 161 thousand metric tons in 2015, a nearly six–fold increase. Currently, Mexico is the tenth largest beef exporting country, exceeding Argentina for the first time in 2015. The U.S. is the largest destination for Mexican beef exports and the U.S. share of total Mexican beef exports has increased from around 60 percent a few years ago to 90 percent in 2015.

Sukarne Opens World's Largest Beef Processing Plant
eFeedLink | April 1, 2016
Mexico based SuKarne has opened what is being described as the world's largest beef processing plant. The Agroparque Integradora SuKarne Lucero has the capacity to feed 300,000 head of cattle daily and will provide 3,552 and 2,368 direct and indirect jobs respectively. It will also provide business opportunities to 18,000 potential suppliers, from agricultureal producers to cattle ranchers.

'Explosive Evidence' Presented To Senate Beef Inquiry: Nationals Senator
Warwick Long, ABC Rural, AU | April 5, 2016
The beef industry is set for major changes as a Senate inquiry into the sector wraps up. The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee into market consolidation in the red meat processing sector has heard evidence about claims of collusion and anti–competitive behaviour within the industry.

A key regional politician says explosive evidence of abuse of market power by processors was heard in the last day of hearings by the Senate inquiry.

Antimicrobial Use in Beef to Meet New Pressures  
Jennifer Paige, Manitoba Co–Operator | April 12, 2016
Growing concern from consumers and animal scientists over antibiotic resistance also underlines an unpleasant truth for producers — these long–relied–upon tools may be on the cusp of becoming ineffective. Antimicrobial resistance in the Canadian beef sector is currently low, but experts warn that producers should be cautious of overuse.

Nutrition Coalition Suggests Dietary Guidelines Made Americans Fat
Alan Newport, Beef Magazine | April 14, 2016
Members of the Nutrition Coalition said Americans followed the government dietary guidelines at the same time obesity burgeoned. One graph supplied by the Nutrition Coalition's members showed when the government's dietary recommendations became official in the late 1970s, the obesity epidemic of the American people began and accelerated.

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, in which doctors and nutritionists tell people they are obese entirely because they eat the wrong foods and don't exercise.

The Nutrition Coalition is a group of dietary researchers and others who emphasize results from years of scientific evidence about nutrition's relationship to human health rather than clinging to and re–mouthing the failed hypotheses of the past. The U.S. population increased consumption of vegetables, fruits and vegetable oils. They cut back on red meat, butter, eggs, whole milk and other animal fats.

Brazil's Largest Grocery Chain Pledges to Chop Deforestation, Slavery from Supply Chain  
Chris Arsenault, Thomas Reuters Foundation | April 8, 2016
Brazil's largest grocery chain has pledged to stop selling beef produced on deforested land in the Amazon rainforest in what campaigners say is a victory for the environment and human rights. Food retailer Pão de Açúcar also promised to stop buying beef produced by workers living in slave–like conditions, or cattle produced on land grabbed from local communities.

The grocery chain has hired consulting firms to audit their supply chains and the firm will cut ties with businesses causing deforestation in the Amazon, said a spokeswomen for Greenpeace Brazil which welcomed the new purchasing plan – to be implemented by the end of June – as a step in the right direction.
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