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


Executive Director's Message

It's been an interesting couple of weeks. First, I was in Norway where I heard a lot about efforts to reduce deforestation in South America and Indonesia through jurisdictional approaches. These are gaining traction and commitments are coming both from jurisdictions in those countries where governors are encouraging sustainable production through intensification, and from jurisdictions in industrialised countries, including Norway itself and China, where sourcing is now being linked to sustainable jurisdictions in the producer countries.

What was noticeably lacking from the discussion was any focus on livestock, or any new commitments to sourcing beef from sustainable sources. Beef is regularly criticised as being the major driver of deforestation in South America, despite great strides in Brazil to reduce that impact, and yet there seems less appetite to address this in the beef value chain than in the soy and palm oil chains. If industry does not take drastic steps to demonstrate reductions in deforestation itself in countries such as Paraguay, we can expect more reports from organisations like Greenpeace in the future.

Following that, I went to Panama where the FAO’s Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock meeting was taking place. The outcome was a declaration to align the agenda with the Sustainable Development Goals, and we discussed at length how the various work streams align with those goals. This was quite useful as it gives some focus and a way of framing the discussion in a group that, until now, has found it difficult to define itself.        
On arrival home I heard the result of the UK referendum – a complete surprise to me – and though all of the future impacts are not known, it seems to me that the biggest benefit will be to bureaucrats who now have years of work ahead of them to sort out all of the implications.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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


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Five–Year Strategic Plan Approved by GRSB in Chicago  
The Cattle Site | June 20, 2016
A five–year strategic plan was approved by a unanimous vote from the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) Board of Directors at the GRSB Semi–Annual Board Meeting in Chicago last month. The Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2021 was developed to ensure the success of the organisation, providing a framework for prioritising goals and objectives that will guide the work of the GRSB, its members, board and staff in meeting various challenges and opportunities ahead.

Additional key priorities in the plan include ongoing communication of continuous improvements around the globe, engagement on global issues through convening sectors, roundtables and geographies, and nurturing GRSB membership, member value and revenues.

"GRSB is engaging with the industry around the world and plan to continue reaching out to areas that are not yet directly or indirectly involved," said Ruaraidh Petre, Executive Director of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

Yet another diatribe against beef. Yes, we understand that there are people who do not want to eat beef, and yes, we also understand that due to the unprecedented human population of the planet, we are going to have to manage our natural resources very carefully. However, rather than focusing on the US where the footprint of food production has been shrinking for years, why not look at countries where there are serious problems. Rather than looking at it from a wholly negative perspective, why not look at it from the perspective of needing to help producers in such countries to produce the food the world needs in ways that ensure future generations have a healthy planet to inherit. RP
A Cow's Life: It Isn't All Clover  
Huffington Post | June 13, 2016
Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America's Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment, by Denis Hayes & Gail Boyer Hayes (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2015). "Beef production is undermining the entire natural world—squeezing out wild animals, shredding ecosystems, slashing biodiversity." — Denis Hayes & Gail Boyer Hayes

In the great tradition of American muck–raking (pun intended), this brilliantly written book on the cattle industry ropes you in with its folksy, down–to–earth tone and wry humor. Disarming or not, Cowed provides a serious look at the cattle industry's enormous hoofprint on the American landscape — and psyche.

You'll learn amazing things about the effects of cows and CAFOs — concentrated animal feeding operations — on our health, water, soil, vegetation, ecosystems, and polity. As Cowed reveals, the collective impact of our 93 million cows is clearly worth ruminating on.

Expanded Beef Program to Give Stamp of Approval to Sustainable Producers  
Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald | June 15, 2016
Canadian ranchers and feedlot operators now have access to an expanded verification program to help them prove they follow sustainable beef production practices.

The Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program — run by the Beef Cattle Research Council, an arm of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association — builds on an on–farm food safety program that has been in place since 2004. That program, called the Verified Beef Production program, offers voluntary food safety training and auditing for cow–calf producers and feedlot operators.

The expanded program will not only incorporate food safety practices, but will also offer training and auditing on animal care, biosecurity and environmental stewardship.

Beef Program to Demonstrate Commitment to Cattle & Resource Stewardship
Ray Baynton, Blackburn News | June 17, 2016
It's a program the Canadian beef industry believes deals with growing consumer interest in issues like animal care and environmental stewardship. The Verified Beef Production Plus program is an expansion of the on–farm food safety program. Terry Grajczyk believes it will enable producers to publicly demonstrate their commitment to responsible stewardship of both cattle and resources. She describes it as an outcome based program.

"So they would meet those, just depending on their own situation and their own complexity of their operation. What we do is we train them as to what the outcomes, the expectations, and then the auditor just goes in and confirms whether those are met or not." One of the key elements in the program is a verification process where third party auditors will ensure those outcomes are being met. "So the producer pays the delivery agency, not the auditor directly. The auditor works for the provincial delivery agency, and doesn't work for the farm."

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Canada's PSP Fund Buys Stake In Animal–Tag Maker Allflex  
By Matt Scuffham, Reuters | June 10, 2016
PSP Investments, one of Canada's biggest pension funds, said on Friday it had acquired a significant minority stake in French firm Allflex Group, the world's biggest maker of electronic tags for animals, from private equity firm BC Partners.

The purchase was overseen by PSP's new team in London, led by Simon Marc, and is likely to be followed by further deals in Europe as PSP looks to increase its presence in Europe's private equity market after having opened an office in London last year.

"We do have an increased emphasis on Europe," said Guthrie Stewart, global head of private investments at PSP, which has C$112 billion ($88 billion) of assets under management.

Cargill Commits to Improve 1 Million Lives by 2020
World Grain | June 14, 2016
Through a broad set of programs focused on the intersection of food security, sustainability and nutrition, Cargill is awarding more than $13 million in grants that will improve the lives of more than 1 million people in 15 countries around the world, the company announced on June 14.

Farmers and government agencies in Brazil will be trained to promote land management and restoration efforts that benefit both food production and forest protection. Small–holder farmers in Honduras will help supply locally grown food to local schools. Kids at a Spanish and English dual–immersion school in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S., will grow their own produce and create recipe books with their parents.

2016 Election Priorities
Cattle Council of Australia
The Cattle Council has identified four key election priorities that are essential for the future of the beef and cattle industries.

Cattle Council is calling on both parties to commit to securing the future of industry through greater investment in infrastructure, research and development and trade and market access. Cattle Council is also seeking seed funding to establish a directly elected producer organisation underpinned by a sustainable funding model.

Cattle Council's key election priorities will be released in stages and work to bring the beef industry to the forefront of the election discussion.

Cattle Actually Benefit the Environment
Tom Lynch, Waterloo Record | June 24, 2016
I wish to respond to Luisa D'Amato's June 17 column, "On climate change, meat is the elephant in the room." I thought it necessary to provide a few points of clarification.

Although cattle do indeed produce methane as part of their digestive process, it is important to note that any tax to encourage reduced consumption of beef in Canada will not have any significant impacts to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The United Nations report cited in the article states that livestock is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Canadian consumers can rest assured that this is not the case in Canada. Total greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle in Canada account for 3.2 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions — well below emissions from transportation (28 per cent).

Elanco Explores Antibiotic Alternatives Through Partnership with Enbiotix
Laurie Bedord, Successful Farming | June 20, 2016
According to an agreement between Elanco Animal Health and EnBiotix, the two companies will collaborate to identify and optimize drug candidates that will leverage EnBiotix's proprietary engineered phage platform. Elanco will provide research funding and will have an option to license and commercialize products developed from their work.

Phage therapy is an alternative and/or complementary approach to traditional antibiotics for treating bacterial infections. A naturally occurring virus, bacteriophage infect bacteria but not humans. The virus self–replicates inside the bacteria, which harnesses bacterial machinery for DNA and protein synthesis and ultimately kills the bacteria by lysis of the cell.

McDonald's Achieves Origin Green Membership  
Amy McShane, Irish Farmers Journal | June 22, 2016
McDonald's Ireland has become the first food service company to achieve Origin Green membership.

Managing director of McDonald's Ireland Aidan Crean said the fast food chain was "committed to work with others in the food and drink industry to share best practices, collaborate and learn, leading to better outcomes for farmers, our customers, local communities and the environment".

To achieve Origin Green accreditation, McDonald's had to show sustainability timelines and targets, which were then verified to an independent standard.
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Scots Farmers Urged to Enter Beef Scheme or Be Left Behind
Jez Fredenburgh, Farmers Weekly | June 9, 2016
Beef producers in Scotland are being urged to sign up for the country's Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) or risk getting left behind foreign competitors.

The five–year scheme hopes to improve the national herd by helping those with suckler cows become more efficient and profitable through better genetic selection and farm management practices.

The scheme is being delivered with Rural Development funding as part of a £45m aid package from the Scottish government, following calls from the beef industry for help. The deadline to apply is 15 June.

Beef Industry Braced for Damaging Vietnam Video  
Mark Phelps and Daniel Pedersen, Queensland Country Life | June 10, 2016
The cattle industry is calling for the immediate release of damaging video footage alleged to show Australian cattle being cruelly slaughtered in Vietnam.

The footage is believed to show animals being bludgeoned with a sledgehammer before having their throats cut with a knife. The video is believed to have already been sent to the Federal Department of Agriculture, which is investigating the issue.

The cattle were slaughtered at an abattoir in Vietnam not included in Australia's Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). Contrary to earlier reports, the cattle are understood not to have eartags.

A report on Animals Australia's finding could be broadcast on ABC TV early next week.

Canadian Beef Industry Conference
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry | June 14, 2016
The inaugural Canadian Beef Industry Conference is in Calgary this summer. As Virgil Lowe, co–chair explains, the event is an opportunity to participate in beef industry meetings, learn about new developments, expand business and industry networks, and have some fun.

'Any Increase in Price Disclosure Will Assist Industry': Report
James Nason, BEEF Central | June 16, 2016
Any increase in price disclosure will assist Australian cattle markets to work more efficiently in matching beef and co–product production to customer requirements. That was a key finding of the MLA Milestone 4 report into price transparency in the beef industry.

Here's an article that demonstrates the level of polarisation around meat consumption. I am not suggesting that the anti-meat lobby is a majority position, (and even the survey results are skewed according to those who choose to participate,) but in some European countries there is a move to tax meat, which clearly ignores the fact that this would have absolutely no impact on the sustainability of our food production systems, the amount of meat produced, or the amount consumed worldwide. If it had any impact at all it would be on the distribution of consumption, but as a sustainability measure it is equivalent to an ostrich burying its head in the sand. RP
Industry Experts Blast Meat Tax Petition as 'Ridiculous'

FG Insight | June 16, 2016
An online petition calling for a meat tax has attracted over 3,000 signatures, but a series of polls around World Meat Free Day have demonstrated only minority support for the idea.

The petition says livestock create more greenhouse gases than the world's vehicles combined and current eating habits are not sustainable.

"An additional tax on all meat products will encourage people to reduce their meat consumption and shift to more plant–based products," it says.

Consumers Determine Beef's Fortune and Future
Wes Ishmael, BEEF Magazine | June 23, 2016
"Each individual customer will become more important," explained Glynn Tonsor, agricultural economist at Kansas State University (KSU), during the recent annual meeting of the Beef Improvement Foundation (BIF).

Tonsor was part of a BIF panel exploring opportunities for the beef value chain. Specifically, he and fellow KSU agricultural economist, Ted Schroeder, offered a glimpse of how the U.S. beef industry could look two decades down the road. The economies of scale and increasing vertical cooperation Tonsor envisions suggest fewer operations and fewer cattle producing more beef than today.

Brexit Poses Implications for NZ's Sheep And Beef Industry
Scoop Independent News | June 25, 2016
"We are concerned about the future of New Zealand's sheep and beef exports to the UK and the EU following the UK's vote to leave the EU," says Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association of New Zealand.

"Our sheep and beef trade to both the UK and EU are inextricably linked through quota access and both are likely to be affected," said Sam McIvor, CEO of Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

The EU is New Zealand's most valuable market for red meat and associated co–products, accounting for over NZ$2 billion in trade last year.

Farmers Warn of Food Price Hikes as Producers Face Savage Fall in Exports to Europe
Valerie Elliot, Daily Mail | June 25, 2016
Shoppers must brace themselves for a painful surge in food prices in the wake of Brexit, farmers' leaders warned last night.

Food producers in the UK will face a savage fall in exports to Europe as a result of leaving the single market, they say, and charges to UK consumers will go up to make up the shortfall in income. A staggering 60 per cent of British food exports are currently sold to the EU, and without these sales the industry could face ruin.

The situation could be further worsened post–Brexit by a shortfall in labour, as workers who have enjoyed freedom of movement across the EU and come to Britain would no longer be available to pick home–grown fruit and vegetables.

Beef Focus Farm: How Reducing Waste Is Maximising Beef Margins
Farmers Weekly (Subscription Only) (Subscription) | June 24, 2016
Margins at Williamswood Farm, Nottinghamshire, are dictated by changes in farm management and not in beef price, says Harper Adams Beef Focus Farmer Ian Willison. He believes that farm output is something he has a degree of control over, unlike market volatility, and that rearing 98.8% of calves born each year from high EBV (or Index) bulls is paramount to having a margin in the beef industry.

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