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


Executive Director's Message

Last week I attended the USRSB General Assembly meeting, and enjoyed it very much. The roundtable has made excellent progress and is working on a number of fronts, including indicator development and verification. I particularly appreciated a number of presentations showcasing member projects, especially those quantifying the benefits of better grazing management and those on tools that can track sustainability and help producers make decisions as to which evolutions will be most sustainable (see here for information on the Merck tool, and here for Beef Tracker.)

Since the early days of GRSB I have been keen on the idea of collecting such tools  and making them available to producers, and I still believe this is a useful role for us to play. I was reminded of this again this week when one of our members mentioned that he had recently seen a presentation of the Carbon Navigator tool being used in Ireland, and asked if this was something we could hear more about in October in Banff. I am pleased to say that Jim O'Toole from Bord Bia has agreed to do just that.

Another of our members, Solidaridad, has been investing in the development of a support tool in South America, called Rural Horizons, and we were able to contribute to that by supporting the adaptation of a beef module for Paraguay.

I am very interested to hear your experiences with either developing or using such tools, and ideas as to how we might collectively support their wider availability to producers.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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

Name: Carlos Saviani
Title: Vice President of Sustainable Food Company: World Wildlife Fund

Q: What do you do for the World Wildlife Fund?

A: I am the Vice President of Sustainable Food for WWF–US, leading the organization's efforts on food sustainability of animal proteins, including beef, seafood and dairy products.

Q: How did you get into this field? What is your background?

A: I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and as a child growing up in a big city, I had little to no contact with food production. I had an uncle who took me once to his partner's beautiful dairy, beef and horse farm in the countryside, and it was love of the first sight. I never stopped going there for long holidays and vacations, and that's how I formed an appreciation of farming, nature, wildlife and animals. Those trips inspired me to study animal science, and that's how I got into food and agriculture. READ MORE...


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Embracing Sustainability  
Greg Henderson, Drovers | July 13, 2016
Aldi, the Germany–based grocery chain that has 10,000 stores in 18 countries, announced new store–brand meat products this past month they call "Never Any!"

It's the latest example of a food retailer seeking to satisfy the desires of their customers with products that are produced with greater concern for the environment, animal well–being or human welfare. Whether or not products such as "Never Any!" accomplish those goals is irrelevant. Successful companies will continue to provide consumers with what they want to buy, rather than trying to sell them products we want to produce.

That is the convincing argument for sustainable beef. Sustainability movement is about telling that story to consumers and showing you share their concern for animals and the environment.

I have not seen much from India before on the sustainability of the livestock sector there, and this is the first time I have seen a mainstream report from that country mentioning the GHG emissions from livestock as an issue. As the dairy herd there is over 320 million head, including cattle and buffalo, this is indeed a severe problem, exacerbated by sub optimal feeding, and the number of idle animals post productive life.
Animal Welfare at Heart of Sustainability
By Pavitra Sriprakash, The New Indian Express | July 9, 2016
Livestock freely wanders our urban streets and are further victims of human cruelty since they are part of our currently un–sustainable food–chain.

A terrifying video involving two medical college students gleefully hurling a hapless screaming puppy from the terrace of a multi–storied building went viral this week. Many of us were enraged and spoke out in one voice for creatures with no 'rights'.

The entire campaign is aimed at showing the way to the general public to act individually against cruelty to animals instead of relying on NGOs for action. The only reference to proper treatment of animals is under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)–11 which at its best is a weak and outdated law.

Why You Can't Have Beef Sustainability Without Grazing Management
Brian Weech, BEEF Magazine | July 14, 2016
Sustainable beef has been defined as beef that is produced in such a way that is environmentally sound, financially viable and socially responsible (see www.grsbeef.org.) Nowhere in the beef value chain do these factors come together to affect sustainability as much as it does with grazing.

With few exceptions, grazing is the singular common practice that every animal in the beef value chain participates in, and given the impacts both positive and negative across the range of sustainability issues, every beef value chain participant from the smallest producer to the largest retailer should be keenly aware how vital it is that the beef industry is a good steward of the land.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets Labelled 'Challenging' By Farm Organisations
Amy Forde, Agriland | July 20, 2016
Farm organisations have labelled the news that Ireland must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 as "challenging" following the announcement of new targets by the European Commission this week. IFA President Joe Healy has described the emission reduction targets to be delivered by 2030 as challenging but more balanced than previous targets set by the European Commission.

"The reduction obligation announced for Ireland's non–emissions trading sector, which includes agriculture, transport and housing, will be extremely challenging, given the low mitigation potential of sectors such as agriculture. "However, farmers' focus will remain on the sustainable intensification of food production in Ireland, which has the lowest carbon footprint in milk production and the fifth lowest in beef production in Europe.

Better Beef Production Helps Environment, Research Shows
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | July 21, 2016
Boosting efficiency in livestock operations typically leads to improved environmental outcomes, the latest research into reducing the northern beef industry's greenhouse gas impact has found.

Interestingly, the work also found the direct economic benefits of efficiency strategies usually are more significant than potential for carbon income via an Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) project due to lack of property scale. An overview on the options for northern beef producers to engage in the carbon economy has recently been published, outlining the key findings of the Climate Clever Beef initiative.

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USRSB Completes Annual Meeting
Lizzy Schultz, Animal AgWired | July 15, 2016
The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) concluded its second annual General Assembly meeting this week. This year's meeting focused on reviewing accomplishments over the past year, aligning to a work plan for the coming year and approval of a strategic plan for the future which will guide the group's efforts to improve beef sustainability moving forward.

"We had about 150 participants here for this year's meeting, so we're very pleased with the turnout and engagement for advancing the USRSB efforts," said USRSB Chairman John Butler, a cattle producer from Kansas. "Each of the stakeholder groups were well represented. During this first year we've accomplished two key goals. We approved a strategic plan which provides a roadmap for the future and will guide our efforts for the next couple of years."

Cargill to Sell Two Texas Cattle Feedlots to Friona Industries
Reuters | July 8, 2016
Cargill Inc., a top U.S. meat processor, said on Friday it will sell two Texas beef cattle feedlots to Amarillo, Texas–based Friona Industries, LP pending final agreements and regulatory reviews. Under the deal, Friona Industries will acquire Cargill's cattle feedlots at Bovina and Dalhart, Texas. Cargill said in a statement it will retain ownership of its cattle feed yards at Yuma, Colorado and Leoti, Kansas.

The sale of the Texas panhandle feed yards will allow the company to redeploy tens of millions of dollars annually into investments to help its protein business, said John Keating, president of Cargill's Wichita–based beef business.

Antibiotic Stewardship Summit Planned
Agri–View | July 9, 2016
Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, will host the One Health Antibiotic Stewardship Summit Sept. 21–22 in Washington, D.C. The invitation–only event will feature speakers from the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, World Wildlife Fund, Gates Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts. The summit also will feature food–company leaders and livestock producers.

The event will include a progress update on Elanco's eight–point plan to safeguard antibiotics for future generations while protecting animal well–being. Components of the plan include increasing responsible use, reducing shared class use, and replacing antibiotics with alternatives to keep animals healthy.

Merck Animal Health Launches New "Creating Connections" Module  
Bovine Veterinarian | July 13, 2016
Merck Animal Health, in partnership with the Beef Cattle Institute and Production Animal Consultation (PAC), today released the sixth module in the CreatingConnections™ Educational Series that features industry experts who share unique insights and proven techniques to help ensure low–stress cattle handling. This module, now available at www.creatingconnections.info, focuses on the stress of heat load on cattle, as well as heat stress management practices and their significance in maintaining the animals' well–being.

New Zealand's Concerns Over Brexit  
The Scottish Farmer | July 13, 2016
New Zealand and Australia's Prime Ministers have discussed both countries' response to the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, and NZ's John Key has since downplayed the prospect of collaborating with Australia on new joint agreements with the UK. Asked whether Brexit might create opportunities for New Zealand exports, Mr Key was doubtful, saying he believed the UK and EU would be negotiating for access to one another's markets, and groups, such as Irish farmers, would remain focused on preserving their own market access. Beef and Lamb New Zealand's chief economist Andrew Butt explained: "The key thing, particularly for this season, is that the vast majority of lamb has already been exported to the EU. Already two thirds of that lamb, for the season ending September 30, has been exported."
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Indian Beef Is About to Capture a Large Slice of the Indonesian Market
Dr. Ross Ainsworth, Beef Central | July 19, 2016
When the Indonesian government officially permitted the importation of Indian buffalo beef on the 8th of June 2016, it triggered events that will result in a tectonic shift in the Indonesia beef industry with significant but less dramatic impacts in Australia.

Beef industry Works to Dispel Myths at Stampede 2016  
Amanda Stephenson, Calgary Herald | July 11, 2016
In the aftermath of the Earls debacle, Alberta ranchers at this year's Calgary Stampede say they are more aware than ever of the need to promote their industry and clear up the misconceptions of city slickers.

Less than three months after Vancouver–based Earls ignited a firestorm of controversy by announcing it would turn to Kansas instead of Alberta to meet customer demand for Certified Humane beef, the Stampede has unveiled an expanded and redesigned Cattle Trail exhibit. The interactive display — sponsored by UFA Co–operative Ltd. — takes visitors on a journey through each step of the beef production cycle, from pasture to plate.

"I don't think consumers know what we do on the farm every day. They don't know that all beef produced in Canada is raised in a humane manner," Virgil Lowe, with the Stampede Beef Cattle Committee, said Sunday. "It is the most important part of beef production — educating the people who buy beef about what we do."

Here's an article and video showing what AA Co in Australia are doing to market their beef; it relates to the story above from Canada about consumers' increasing interest in where their product comes from.
AA Co Launches Suite of New Beef Brands
Jon Condon, Beef Central | July 14, 2016
Shareholders at the Australian Agricultural Co's AGM this morning were treated to a sneak preview of a new suite of commercial beef brands, designed to further consolidate the company's transformation from large–scale cattle producer to fully–integrated global beef marketer. See 2:45 Video here.

We have been seeing articles from Europe for some time like the one below, and I certainly don't include all of them in Connect. However here is a Canadian academic putting forward their opinions in the mainstream media there on the subject of the environmental and health impacts of beef. This is why GRSB needs a concerted program on community acceptance or social license.
Food Policy Must Address the Issue Of Meat
Trevor Hancock, Times Colonist | July 13, 2016
It's not a good time to be an Albertan. Not only is there growing opposition to the oil industry in general and the oilsands in particular, and to the pipelines needed to get their product to market, but their second iconic industry — beef cattle ranching — is also coming under attack. And as with the oilsands, the reasons are that the industry has adverse impacts upon both the environment and health.

According to the latest inventory of greenhouse–gas emissions in Canada, animal and crop production accounted for eight per cent of total emissions in 2014, an increase of 21 per cent since 1990. (This is not as bad as it might seem, since the population grew by 28 per cent in the same period.)

Grazing management is certainly essential to increase soil carbon and thus soil moisture retention; here is a technical approach to further increasing the ability of soil to take up moisture using new grass varieties with enhanced root structures.

Grass Roots Project Targets Solution to Flooding  
Farming UK | July 18, 2016
Deeper rooting forage grasses being developed at leading research establishments in the UK may offer a sustainable solution to some of the more damaging consequences of climate change.

So says Paul Billings, managing director of Germinal GB, in response to the recently published Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 (CCRA) that high lights future threats to infrastructure, agriculture and wildlife as a consequence of flooding.

Historic Breakthrough for Nam Beef in US Markets  
Deon Schlecter, New Era | July 14, 2016
Namibia yesterday became the first African country in history whose sought–after beef qualified for the lucrative export markets of both China and the United States of America. Exports to the USA could start as soon as September, it transpired yesterday. The US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service yesterday confirmed the eligibility of Namibia to export meat products to the United States.

The approval of the Namibian beef industry's entry to the US market followed mere hours after a Meatco announcement that it is in the process of finalising the trade licence with the regulatory body in China before exports to that Asian country can commence.

Don't be misled by the headline: the article below is actually about silvo pastoral grazing systems in Colombia.
What's Your Beef? Why It Might Be Time Give Livestock A Break  
Neil Palmer, CIAT | June 21, 2016
Noelí comes from a long line of cattle producers. Up until 2007, like his parents, grandparents and neighbours, he let his cattle graze the wild grasses that spring up each year. But these weren't particularly nutritious or resilient when the rains failed. Productivity and earnings were low. Then everything changed.

Active in his local farmers' association, scientists from the University of Cauca and CIAT asked Noelí if he would be willing to try silvopastoralism – a rotational grazing system that combines nutritious forage grasses, herbs, bushes and trees.

As well as the promise of increasing the productivity of both cattle and land, silvopastoral systems can also weather drought, help restore degraded soils and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with cattle farming.

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