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


Executive Director's Message

To start Connect this week I want to highlight the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, and specifically the tour on October the 4th that will take us from Calgary to Banff. I really hope you are going to be able to join us on this as it will be both scenic and very informative about sustainability on cattle operations in Alberta, as we will visit Cherie Copithorne Barnes' family ranch, the CL ranch (Cherie is the chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef), as well as Triple S Red Angus. For more detailed information on the tour, have a look at the preliminary schedule here. I hope you are all making plans to be there, as the conference and the tour promise to be a great event.

One ongoing theme that we have seen in various countries is that of dietary guidance. It now seems that China is also advising a lower consumption of meat. Whether such advice can really change consumption patterns is another question. China's meat consumption has increased rapidly in the last two decades to reach 62kg per capita now, and this has had a significant impact on total global demand given the enormous population in China.

Another subject that is being heavily promoted by the inventor no doubt, and is appearing more often in the media is that of lab grown meat. This is not something that the consumer has access to yet, but it will be interesting to see what attitudes are as it becomes available. Personally I worry about separating food production entirely from the land and natural systems, and given consumer attitudes to other technologies I would be surprised if there were not some resistance to this.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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


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Global Conference Tour Announced
GRSB News Release | May 31, 2016
The tour will showcase the continuous improvements being made in the Canadian Beef Industry and cater to a wide range of sustainability–related interests including animal care, genetics and natural resource management.

The tour will stop at two ranches located in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The first stop will be at CL Ranch. The CL Ranch was established in 1887 on the banks of the Jumping Pound Creek west of Calgary, Alberta. Today, the ranch consists of 2000 mother cows, a grain operation as well as other diversified divisions such as a movie set. The concurrent sessions hosted at the CL ranch will include an overview of the operation as well as the showcasing of work being undertaken by Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) membership in the areas of animal health and care and natural resource management.

The second stop will be at Triple S Red Angus situated in the Alberta foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Triple S Red Angus is owned and operated by Dave and Mary Beth Sibbald and their family. They have been dedicated to raising superior Red Angus seedstock cattle since 1972. This stop will be hosted alongside the Canadian Beef Breed's Council and the Canadian Angus Association. An overview of the Sibbald operation as well as the genetic advancements and current undertakings of the Canadian beef industry will be highlighted.

For more information on the tour and the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef taking place in Banff, Alberta, Canada on October 4–7, 2016, visit grsbeef.org/events

China Encourages Citizens to Eat Less Meat  
Chelsea Harvey, The Sydney Morning Herald | May 28, 2016
An updated set of dietary guidelines released by the Chinese government and applauded by environmentalists could affect Australian exports. The new recommendations have the potential to reduce China's meat consumption, or at least slow its growth, which could help save land and water resources and put a substantial dent in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian beef sales to China surged six–fold in three years to a record $917 million in 2015, data from Meat & Livestock Australia show. The volume of beef shipped to China rose more than four times over the same period while the price received for the exports has jumped 37 per cent in the past 12 months. The country's meat consumption alone comes to about 62 kilograms per capita annually, while the dietary guidelines would limit it to just over 27 kilograms. Yet, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), daily meat and dairy consumption in China is expected to keep increasing over the next few decades.

Not entirely new, but I had not seen it earlier – nota bene they are still advocating a dramatic reduction in animal protein consumption that is not going to happen: Impacts of Feeding Less Food–Competing Feedstuffs to Livestock on Global Food System Sustainability
Christian Schader, Adrian Muller, Nadia El–Hage Scialabba, Judith Hecht, Anne Isensee, Karl–Heinz Erb, Pete Smith, Harinder P. S. Makkar, Peter Klocke, Florian Leiber, Patrizia Schwegler, Matthias Stolze, Urs Niggli, The Royal Society Publishing | December 16, 2015
Increasing efficiency in livestock production and reducing the share of animal products in human consumption are two strategies to curb the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock sector. Here, we explore the room for sustainable livestock production by modelling the impacts and constraints of a third strategy in which livestock feed components that compete with direct human food crop production are reduced. Thus, in the outmost scenario, animals are fed only from grassland and by–products from food production. We show that this strategy could provide sufficient food (equal amounts of human–digestible energy and a similar protein/calorie ratio as in the reference scenario for 2050) and reduce environmental impacts compared with the reference scenario (in the most extreme case of zero human–edible concentrate feed.

Sustainability Depends on Communication
Doug Rich, High Plains Journal | May 26, 2016
What is sustainability for the beef industry? Is it about the environment, animal welfare, consumers or producers?

The Beef Sustainability Knowledge Summit, sponsored by K–Coe Isom and the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, held in Manhattan, Kansas, May 10, attempted to answer these questions. Experts and stakeholders from across the country gathered in the K–State Alumni Center to discuss beef sustainability. Tim Hardman, World Wildlife Fund, takes the triple bottom line approach to beef sustainability. He believes sustainability needs to be environmentally sound, socially acceptable and economically viable. Sustainability is not just about the environment, but the environmental footprint of the beef industry is real and has to be addressed in any sustainability system.

Although the author has attributed GRSB member Jude Capper with a new gender, this article summarises some of the reasons behind GRSB's technology neutral stance...

Performance Technologies Help Make Beef Sustainable
Roy Lewis, Western Producer (subscription) | May 26, 2016
Sustainability is one of the buzz words in our industry these days, and I suppose everyone has a different definition of what it means.

To me, sustainable means the industry will carry on and be profitable into the future, that it will be environmentally friendly and improve the land on which cattle are raised and that it will raise cattle in as stress free and humane an environment as possible. The last point addresses animal welfare needs and makes the industry " sustainable " from society's imposed standards.

A lot of misinformation exists: some is public perception, some is driven by the media or industry and some focuses on isolated instances of animal abuse. It is our collective responsibility to show the positive side of our industry so that it can remain "sustainable " into the future.

Livestock and Sustainable Development Do Mix
Francois Le Gall, Sci Dev | May 27, 2016
You would be forgiven for thinking that livestock and sustainable development don't mix. Reducing meat consumption has sometimes been cited as a great way to combat climate change — one of the anchors of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development — given that the livestock sector's carbon emissions are equal to those from all the road vehicles in the world.

But aren't we oversimplifying the role the sector can play in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? Livestock production systems, enterprises and consumption patterns vastly differ around the world, and contribute more broadly to sustainable development than is currently recognised.

To harness livestock for the greatest good, it is essential to grasp this huge diversity in practices and understand the different interventions it requires.

Lab grown burgers hit the news every now and then, and I suppose that they will one day be "a thing" I wonder how much work has been done to analyse how sustainable this really is; the article mentions energy consumption as one concern. A bigger question for me is that of divorcing food entirely from natural systems. Somehow it surprises me that I have seen very little consumer objection to this idea, compared with the resistance to say GM foods. All–Beef, No Butcher: Meet the Minds Behind Lab–Grown Burgers  
Elizabeth Rushe, TakePart | May 23, 2016  
Sometime after the all–vegan potluck brunch and workshops about low–waste living and how to be a good ambassador of the meat–free lifestyle, Leenaert sang the praises of a particular kind of burger: one with a patty made of the lab–grown meat being developed at professor Mark Post's lab at Maastricht University. The lab–grown meat is made of cells harmlessly drawn from a cow and then cultured to grow and form muscle fibers—which means there aren't cows producing vast clouds of methane in the process, and there's no slaughter to atone for.

Theoretically, the harm–free, low–impact meat poses a challenge to some ethical qualms of vegetarians. Leenaert tried to persuade the crowd of more than 150 people to start eating cultured meat once it becomes available, in no small part because it will pull vegetarianism and veganism out of its cult status and prove that the community is interested in solving the overarching problems with meat production.

Mmm mmm Good? Lab–Made Food May Be Headed To Your Market
Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register | May 27, 2016
The cheeseburger, a staple of the summer cookout, could be getting a makeover — courtesy of a laboratory.

Nearly three years ago, Mark Post and a team of scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands introduced a futuristic lab–grown burger that cost $325,000. San Francisco–based Memphis Meats has created its own "cultured meat" with a price tag of $18,000 a pound (compared with grocer Hy–Vee, which recently advertised 85 percent lean ground beef for $4.99 a pound).

The goal by these and other groups working to change where meat — a key part of the human diet — and other animal–derived foods come from could, eventually have a jolting effect on modern agriculture, if researchers can drastically rein in the cost, maintain flavor and persuade consumers to buy it..
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Rising Champ Initiative A "Great Opportunity" Says NSW Cattle Producer
Beef Central | May 20, 2016
The distinction between the roles of Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the interaction between peak industry bodies has been a "grey area" for him before Rising Champions. When something goes wrong in the beef industry, everyone questions where MLA is. If they simply understood the charter of the MLA and the role of Cattle Council to be the voice for the industry, it would save a lot of frustration.

Wanted: Sustainable Suppliers  
Greg Henderson, Drovers | May 23, 2016
When McDonald's—the fast–food behemoth that serves 75 hamburgers every second—announced two years ago it would begin sourcing some of its beef from "sustainable" sources by 2016, a lot of cowboys became skeptical. More suspicions were raised in cattle country when it was learned McDonald's chose Canada for the company's pilot project to identify and certify sustainable suppliers.

The company that puts 2% of the world's beef in the hands of consumers recognized they had to mend some fences, so executives were dispatched to cowboy meetings to discuss their plans and motives.

How BQA Could Help Grow Relationships with Consumers
Amanda Radke, BEEF Magazine | May 23, 2016
In all of the consumer conversations and media outcry about antibiotic use, animal welfare and the humane treatment of animals, the quiet and often unheard voice of beef producers has one story that isn't being told enough. That story is of the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, a checkoff funded certification program that offers training to producers, so they can ensure a safe, high quality beef product for consumers to enjoy.

BQA encompasses every aspect of the beef cattle industry including cow–calf, stocker, feedlot, and even dairy, and the BQA certification modules include information on proper animal handling, administration of vaccines and how to eliminate injection–site lesions, low–stress cattle handling, and other management practices that ultimately determine the quality and safety of the beef we love.

CCA Wants System to Capture Boxed and Wholesale Beef Prices
Queensland Country Life | May 24, 2016  
Cattle Council considers increasing the accountability and transparency of the beef supply chain to be essential in ensuring producers receive the correct market signals.

"The whole of the beef sector needs to examine methods to improve the transparency and accountability and profitability for cattle producers and the wider industry," CCA's supply chain integrity chairman Peter Hall said.

Cattle Council supports industry partnerships to generate significantly improved beef and cattle price transparency, with the Senate inquiry hearings outlining the lack of available data for up to two thirds of the Australian cattle slaughter.

Marfrig Launches Alianza Del Pastizal Certified Beef (PDF)   
Marfrig Global Foods
Marfrig Global Foods, which is the world's third largest beef producer and is internationally recognized for promoting sustainable cattle raising, is launching this month, in partnership with Carrefour, products that will help value and conserve the native plains of Brazil's South. Bearing the seal of Alianza del Pastizal, a program to foster sustainable cattle raising in the pampas biome of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul as well as in vast areas of Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, the new line not only offers consumers beef cuts of exceptional quality, but also fosters the conservation of the natural habitats of these regions.

Alberta Beef Producers Says Earls 'Mistake' Cooks Up New Opportunities
Colleen Underwood, CBC.ca | May 27, 2016  
The chair of the Alberta Beef Producers says looking back, the Earls' controversy appears to have been a good thing for cattle ranchers. Earls reached out to the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, as did five other restaurant chains hoping to bypass a similar fallout with their customers.

"It's exactly what we're hoping for because what we're looking for is to be able to inform our consumer, and in this case it's the retailers and the restaurants who are buying and purchasing our meat products from our processors," Cherie Copithorne–Barnes said. "They had no idea how to connect to our industry to find out really, truly what was here and what was available and this roundtable is offering them that platform to be able to do just this."
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Farmers Must Embrace Beef Efficiency Scheme  
Jim McLaren, The Scottish Farmer | May 21, 2016
The Scottish Government's new Beef Efficiency Scheme has generated a large amount of comment and discussion in the past few weeks. It is important to remember that the history of the scheme dates back to the Scottish Government's announcement of a £45 million aid package for the Scottish beef sector way back in 2014. The announcement stated that the aid would be delivered through the next round of Rural Development funding and that is what is now happening.

BVD: Massive Economic Toll on Beef Industry  
Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Herd Management | May 23, 2016
Calculating the costs of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) to the cattle industry is a difficult chore because it touches so many areas. Taking the task to determine how financially burdensome BVD can be, Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University, looked at all facets of the cattle industry from cow–calf, stockers, feedlots and even dairies.

"BVD impacts all sectors of the industry in different ways,"Peel says.

"A lot of the loss is probably not even recognized by producers,"he adds. Peel estimates the total loss to the industry is $1.54 to $2.59 billion. However, he cautions estimates varied widely in the studies because of different population sets, various methodologies as well as economic assumptions.

"I think these numbers probably capture the impacts in a general sense across the industry,"Peel relates. "The important part is it's a big number."

Palm Oil Game's Cattle Opportunities  
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | March 27, 2016
Big global palm oil player Malaysia has ramped up its integration of cattle production in palm estates with the assistance of Australian–sourced Brahman breeders to the point where there are now 9000 head distributed over 16 properties.

Cattle integration manager with Sawit Kinabulu Farm Products in Sabah Dr Mohd Azid Bin Kabul said the appetite to expand was very strong. "The palm oil industry requires diversification in facing the price volatility and ever–increasing production costs,"he said. "Anything that reduces costs and generates income is very much welcomed.".

South Canterbury Hereford Breeder Impressed With South American Cattle  
Pat Deavoll, NZ Farmer | May 27, 2016
South American cattle have left some lasting impressions on South Canterbury breeder Eoin McKerchar after his return from the World Hereford Conference in Uruguay. McKerchar visited hereford studs in both Uruguay and Argentina and was "very impressed"with the standard of the cattle.

"They weren't as big as a lot of the cattle in New Zealand or Australia but they were very structurally correct, heavy boned and well fleshed out,"he said. About 20 ago the fashion was for big, tall, lean cattle, a trait that originated in Canada and North America. Today, the aim is to get away from this type, McKerchar said. "Back then they were flat ribbed, poor doing cattle that took a lot of grass to maintain because of their size. And once they got big, they weren't structurally correct and ended up with a lot of leg and feet problems.

"What impressed us in Argentina and Uruguay was the work they had done to get away from these big lanky cattle. They have gone to a heavy boned smaller animal with a much better springer–rib. These are easier to feed and easier to put muscle on to."

Assessing the First Quarter — Cattle Inventories Disappointing
Charlie Gracey, Canadian Cattlemen | May 26, 2016
At the end of the first quarter the domestic steer slaughter was down 2.3 per cent while the domestic heifer slaughter was down 9.1 per cent. That doesn't tell us much until we factor in live slaughter steer and heifer exports. The sex of fed cattle slaughter exports is not known until closer to year–end, so I apply the same percentage as was experienced in 2015. On that basis the total fed steer slaughter was up nearly 2.0 per cent while the fed heifer slaughter was down 4.4 per cent. Combined the total fed beef slaughter was down 0.5 per cent.
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