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


Executive Director's Message

Antibiotics are increasingly in the news again with a number of companies reducing their use including Cargill committing to a 20% reduction in shared class antibiotics in beef cattle. A survey Cargill undertook in Brazil and the US suggests consumer preference for antibiotic free production, and even some willingness to pay more for it. The decision to reduce shared class antibiotics is a realistically achievable goal that recognises the negative impact that reducing by too much too fast would have. 

Consumer opinion is not always the best indicator of what is the most efficient or necessarily the "best" strategy to follow (see the Drovers article explaining why the livestock industry is not primarily responsible for antibiotic resistant bacteria and look at this informative Beef Cattle Research Council webpage), but there is no arguing with what the customer wants to buy. So there is a delicate balance between educating consumers about the scientific rationale for a given course of action, and accepting that they will buy what they want  and are willing pay you for it.

In sustainability terms this is a genuine catch–22; we realise the message is much less simple than consumers believe, and that there are extremely good reasons to support prudent use of antibiotics. There are valid arguments against removing antibiotics from production systems too rapidly or to too great an extent, but we face being judged in the court of public opinion, by one line Tweets and online campaigns which can be at best a blunt instrument. Once again, the only way forward is to have an open dialogue with consumers about the pros and cons, and have an open discussion in the industry itself about the use of antibiotics important to human medicine. For a fairly comprehensive overview of the situation in Canada, see this presentation by Tim McAllister.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

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


Name: Roger Cady,
Title: Senior Technical Consultant, Global Sustainability Lead
Company: Elanco

Q: What is Elanco?

A:Elanco is the animal health division of the Eli Lilly Company. We provide products and knowledge for improving animal health and productivity.

Q: What do you do for Elanco?

A: I am the Global Sustainability Lead, which means I look at the environmental impact that our products have when used by our customers in the animal production industries.

Q: What is your background? Did you grow up in agriculture?

A: I did grow up in agriculture. I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York back in the ‘50s & ‘60s. I went to a university in the ‘70s to study animal science. I have a PhD in animal breeding and animal science. I’ve been involved in agriculture literally my entire life.


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Could Low–Emissions Livestock Be a Cash Cow?
By Jason Strongin, Bloomberg | August 18, 2016
The hamburgers and cheese that come from U.S. cattle may be favorite fare at many summer cookouts, but the methane the same cows produce is significantly less appetizing.

That's especially the case for sustainable investors looking for a low–emission place to park their cash. "Enteric fermentation," or livestock's digestive process, accounts for 22 percent of all U.S. methane emissions, and the manure they produce makes up 8 percent more, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And although agriculture is a growing industry as the world looks to feed its swelling population, some investors are reluctant to support a sector with such a hefty methane footprint.

Complete Carbon Navigation Now
Kevin O'Sullivan, The Corkman | August 20, 2016
The Carbon Navigator is an online software system developed originally by Teagasc and now overseen by Bord Bia.

The intention is that the system will help farmers understand how their farms produce greenhouse gasses (GHGs). It will help farmers identify GHG emission mitigation possibilities on their farm and allow them to identify a route to reducing emissions on their farm.

Myths And Facts: Addressing The Use Of Antibiotics In Food–Producing Animals  
Bizcommunity.com | August 19, 2016
While the science is not definitive about the role of antibiotics used in livestock in furthering the development of resistance in human pathogenic bacteria, the collective livestock industries, policymakers and scientists must, together, develop long–term solutions that protect public health and enhance food security and animal welfare.

Proposed Changes To Antibiotic Use In Livestock Production Expected
Corwyn Friesen, mySteinbach.ca | August 10, 2016
A Saskatchewan based Veterinary Epidemiologist says proposed changes to regulations governing the use of antibiotics in livestock production in Canada will benefit producers.

Under the proposed changes regulations governing the importation of active pharmaceutical ingredients used to manufacture antibiotics used in animal agriculture will be tightened, importation of antibiotics by producers for their own use will be restricted, the use of antibiotics for growth promotion will be eliminated and a new structure designed to speed up the approval in Canada of animal health products used in other countries in place of antibiotics will be created.

Meat of the Matter: A Tale of Two Choices
Dan Murphy, Drovers | August 24, 2016
Media coverage of the controversies connected with antibiotic resistance is one of the most frustrating aspects of contemporary journalism.

First and foremost, there are no clear–cut answers to the challenge of dealing with microbial pathogens resistant to mainline antibiotics — nor are the causes of what has become a troubling phenomenon nailed down to the point that a straightforward campaign can begin to reverse this curse.

Sustainability Leadership Amid Fear and Pressure
Bob Langert, GreenBiz | August 22, 2016
It is natural and expected to have conflict when it comes to sustainability. How you deal with conflict is the real issue. With stakeholders, why not see conflict as an opportunity? When a stakeholder judges your company, he or she will form an opinion of you as a leader, and your company overall, on the company's openness, honesty and transparency.

Sustainable Intensification Could End Chronic Hunger
Sir Gordon Conway & Dr Ousmane Badiane, Huffington Post UK | August 25, 2016
The majority of the hungry live in South Asia, but the proportion of hungry in Sub–Saharan Africa is very high, about a quarter of the population. Most shocking of all are the more than 150 million children under five years old in the world who are so malnourished that they die or grow up stunted, both physically and mentally.

We must double food production in developing countries by 2050, and by 70%, globally. We also must greatly increase the access to food.

But we have to do this in a sustainable fashion, and engineering and technology are key to ensuring that. We have to more prudently use inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers, be adaptive to climate change, reduce the greenhouse gases from agriculture, build up natural capital such as the quality of our soils, and on top of all this, be resilient. We call this approach 'Sustainable Intensification'. It's a tall order and developing country farmers need all the help they can get.

Research into Cow Burps Could Cut Methane Emissions, And Budgets
Andrew Brown, CBC. News, ca | August 29, 2016
Scientists are finding that some cows are more efficient than others.

According to research scientist John Basarab, less efficient cows produce up to 30 per cent more methane. He said selective breeding could help cut emissions by 10 to 15 per cent over the next couple of decades.

That's good news, as the methane from burps and flatulence accounts for more than half of the greenhouse gases produced by the beef industry in Canada.

I am sure I posted this when it first came out, but as it passed my Twitter feed today, I thought I should include it in Connect again, as it remains as useful today as it was in April.
Livestock and Climate Change: Fact and Fiction – UC Davis Blogs
Andy Fell, egghead, UC Davis | August 27, 2016
One argument often made is that U.S. livestock GHG emissions from cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are comparable to all transportation sectors from sources such as cars, trucks, planes, trains, etc. The argument suggests the solution of limiting meat consumption, starting with "Meatless Mondays," to show a significant impact on total emissions.

When divorcing political fiction from scientific facts around the quantification of GHG from all sectors of society, one finds a different picture.

Leading scientists throughout the U.S., as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have quantified the impacts of livestock production in the U.S., which accounts for 4.2 percent of all GHG emissions, very far from the 18–51 percent range that advocates often cite.

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GRSB to Explore Zero–Deforestation Beef Production
Bovine Veterinarian | August 31, 2016
The Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, to be held October 4–7 at the Fairmont Hotel in Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada, is featuring a dedicated breakout session focusing on work being done in South America to support forest conservation and sustainable beef production.

Simon Hall, a member of the International Wildlife Conservation team at the National Wildlife Federation and co–chair of the Joint Working Group on Forests, explains, "very positive work is being done in South American countries to reduce deforestation driven by the production and expansion of cattle ranching". The advancement of zero deforestation beef production is having substantial social, economic and environmental benefits in these regions".

Henkel, BASF and Solidaridad JV Set to Support 5500 Smallholders in Indonesia
Food Ingredients First | August 18, 2016
Henkel and BASF are collaborating with the development organization Solidaridad to support a project in Indonesia and advocate for smallholders and local initiatives.

When renewable raw materials such as palm oil and palm kernel oil are used, the main focus is on economic, environmental and social impacts along the entire supply chain – from field to shelf. Small farms produce around 40 percent of the world's palm and palm kernel oil. Oil producing countries are now looking to increase the yields from the land already under cultivation.

FAO Releases GLEAM–I, Tool That Calculates Meat, Milk & Egg Production
FnBnews | August 25, 2016
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model interactive (GLEAM–i), a tool to enable farmers, policy makers and scientists to calculate meat, milk and egg production and greenhouse gas emissions from livestock to make the sector more productive and climate–friendly.

It provides the answers to a wide range of questions, such as how small livestock keepers or pastoralists can get their animals to produce more milk, meat or eggs or what practices policy makers should support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock?

Cargill Feed for Thought Survey: US, Brazilian Consumers More Likely to Buy Beef Raised Without antibiotics
PR Newswire | August 23, 2016
Surveys comparing consumer attitudes in the two largest beef–producing countries – the United States and Brazil – reveals several important trends in purchasing preference that are influenced by how beef is raised and fed.

Cargill's 'Feed for Thought' survey of more than 2,000 people in the U.S. and Brazil, found that the majority of U.S. consumers (54 percent) and Brazilian consumers (69 percent) are more likely to purchase beef raised without antibiotics. Only 35 percent in both countries are willing to pay more for it.

Here's How the Beef Industry Is Putting Sustainability On the Menu
Ellie Kaufman, Food Mic | August 30, 2016
Our love for beef comes at a cost. Although the carbon footprint of beef production in the U.S. shrunk 16.3% from 1977 to 2007 due to greater efficiencies in the industry, according to a 2014 study from Washington State University, the beef supply chain still requires energy and resources that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. And with 2015 declared one of the hottest years on record, the impact of climate change is ever more immediate.

In 2015, a wide–ranging coalition of nearly 100 representatives across the beef supply chain, from ranchers and feedyard operators to conservationists and retailers (including McDonald's), formed the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

Inspired by a first–of–its–kind global roundtable, the USRSB's mission is to develop metrics, pilot projects and verification methods aimed at addressing the environmental, social and economic impacts of beef production. Barely a year into that mission, the USRSB has already made progress on identifying key indicators for sustainability, establishing data–gathering and verification procedures, and providing an equitable, collaborative forum for its membership.
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Americans Should Eat Less Meat, But They're Eating More And More
Eliza Barclay, Vox | August 18, 2016
Last For most of the past decade, meat consumption in the United States was falling. In 2014, Americans ate 18 percent less beef, 10 percent less pork, and 1.4 percent less chicken than they did in 2005, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

According to a recent analysis from Rabobank, a Dutch bank, consumption of meat in the United States rose by 5 percent in 2015 — the biggest increase in 40 years. And, the author notes, in the coming years per–person meat eating is expected to reach highs not seen in more than a decade.

As it turns out, there was a simple reason meat consumption dropped between 2005 and 2014. It wasn't growing awareness about animal rights or the environment; instead, it was that supplies were tight and prices were higher.

"There is Evidence That We Need to Be Doing More with R&D."
Kelly Butterworth, Queensland Country Life | August 18, 2016
When Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Agri–Science Queensland executive director Dr Wayne Hall took to the podium at the North Australia Beef Research Update Conference in Rockhampton this week, he had an important question to answer.

Is the cattle industry's research and development (R&D) moving fast enough, and is it producing satisfactory results?

This is not a beef article, but very interesting for operations that are in the feed business as well as beef. Of particular interest is how strip till can increase soil carbon dramatically (up to double what it was before).
The Case for Strip Till: Healthy Soil, Less Tile, Better Root Growth

Lynn Betts, Corn and Soybean Digest | August 19, 2016
After 11 years of strip till, Dennis Smith has built his night crawler numbers up to the point that there's not enough soybean residue to go around.

"The earthworms are pulling the residues down into their holes," the Story County, Iowa, strip tiller explains. "With soybeans in the rotation, I can't get enough residue." He likes the residue conversion for soil–building purposes, but also wants residues left on the soil surface for protection against erosion.

Ranchers Seek New Ways to Heal Fire–Scorched Soil
Terry Grillo, Calaveras Enterprise | August 29, 2016
Soil covers almost everything in the natural world: it is underfoot, under the forest, under the grasslands. It is everywhere and taking better care of it can improve the recovery from the Butte Fire, an expert said Saturday during a workshop near Ione.

Spencer Smith, a rancher from Modoc County and an employee of the Savory Institute, Jefferson Center of Holistic Management, told a group of 15 workshop participants that throughout human history, populations "have been growing and dying depending on how we treat our soil. Every culture, from the dawn until now rose and fell depending on how they treated their soil," he said.

Beef Industry Challenged to Do Better
Alexis Kienlen, Country Guide | August 29, 2016
It's no secret the beef industry is under attack from environmentalists and activists — or that they frequently distort the truth.

"They have an agenda that they are trying to gain information to support — they're looking for things that have gone awry in the industry, and there have been problems," renowned Alberta cattle researcher Tim McAllister said at the inaugural Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

"They're looking for those mistakes to build up as much press coverage to build up those issues as much as they can… They often exaggerate the outcomes of those events and they are very narrow in scope."

Consolidation, Genetics and Nutrition Improved the Chinese Dairy Industry, Is the Focus Now On Beef?
Aerin Einstein–Curtis, FeedNavigator | September 1, 2016
We caught up with Alltech's Ian Lahiffe, sales and new business development director of Alltech China, to talk about the Chinese cattle industry and what areas he sees for development with animal nutrition.

Initially the country had more interest in swine and poultry production, said Lahiffe, but that has started to change as beef has become a more important part of the diet.

However, efforts to improve cattle nutrition and production started in the dairy industry, he said. Though, attention may now be shifting to the beef cattle industry.

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