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


Executive Director's Message

I am in Uruguay for the World Meat Congress this week, where one of the topics on the agenda is Sustainability. Given the recent report from WWF (PDF) about the decline of species diversity, this is a logical subject to discuss.

We heard a lot during our own global conference on sustainable beef about the progress being made around the world to initiate, measure and report on sustainability of the beef industry. We also heard several presentations that emphasised the need to tell our stories. I am ambivalent about the word 'stories' because to me stories don't necessarily have to be true; I personally prefer the idea of "showing what we do", but that may be purely personal.

In any case it is certain that consumers need to feel that we share their values, and much of that will be achieved through sharing what the beef industry does with them transparently. It is essential of course, that in doing so, we collect evidence about the work thoroughly. Nothing causes trust to evaporate faster than the exposure of a lie; we need transparency along the whole chain.

This really is the only way that we are going to be able to combat the ever growing criticism of meat consumption as being a cause of most of the ills of the planet. The mayor of the city of Turin in Italy announced recently their plan to become a vegetarian city. Increasingly we are seeing articles and hearing politicians making totally unsubstantiated claims about the benefit of turning the world vegetarian. Of course I recognise how offensive this is to anyone who makes their living producing meat, under whatever system, and I also recognise how defensive that is likely to make the whole industry. What worries me perhaps even more is that it is an untruth being peddled as a solution by people based not on scientifically supportable fact, but by ideology (see this article).

The unintended consequences of following this ideology would be environmentally catastrophic. We need to use all the land we have now to produce food, much of which cannot produce crops, only grass. Integrated food production systems are the most productive, and the links between crops and livestock are fundamentally important to ecosystem health. We urgently need to meet the real challenges of sustainability while providing facts to consumers to combat the wild oversimplifications that have taken the debate from being one based on reason to being one based on ideology.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Meat–Lovers, Millennials, Moms Are Three Key Groups for Beef Industry
Caitlin Richards, Abilene Reporter–News | October 22, 2016
At the recent 62nd annual Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, Senior Director of Protein for Performance Food Group Dr. Brad Morgan spoke to cattle producers about consumer trends for the beef industry.

The three main consumer groups for beef in the future, Morgan said, are meat–lovers, millennials and moms. And beef producers should keep these groups in mind in developing their products and brands, he added.

"Millennials today are big fans of beef," Morgan said. "They just want a little bit more information about it and want you to tell the story a little bit."

Meat–lovers will always be loyal customers of beef, according to Morgan. For this group, it is important for the beef industry to continue to produce a high quality and tasty product.

Moms, on the other hand, are harder to get buy–in from, but they are extremely important. "They (moms) control the pocket book," Morgan said. "That is the group we need to target."

Food Waste an Important Factor In Sustainable Food Systems
Amanda Radke, Beef Magazine | October 25, 2016

While about three–quarters (73%) believe it's important that food products be produced in a sustainable way, their definitions of sustainability are across the board.

These definitions of sustainability include conserving the natural habitat (44%), reducing the amount of pesticides used to produce food (43%), ensuring an affordable food supply (37%), and ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population (35%). Despite this interest in sustainability, American are split on whether they would pay more for sustainable food and beverage products.

Little more than one–third (38%) state they are willing to pay more for food and beverages that are produced sustainably.

When asked about the role of agriculture, 70% say that they see modern agriculture as having at least a small role in ensuring that all people have access to healthy food; nearly half (47%) agree that modern tools, equipment and technologies in agriculture are sustainable; and more than one in two Americans say that modern agriculture produces nutritious (56%), safe (53%), high–quality foods (51%).

'Meating' In the Middle on The 'Meat Vs Vegetarian' Diet Debate at the Climate Change Summit This Week
Polly Ericksen International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) News | November 5, 2016
If we want to fight climate change and contribute to global development, is the solution really as simple as becoming vegetarian or even vegan as is sometimes suggested? The answer depends greatly on where we live, and the truth is that the global consumption of meat, milk and eggs is much more complex than it may first appear.

For those of us in the developed world the actions we take may need to be quite different from those in the developing world who face a very different reality when it comes to dietary choice, health, livelihood and even experience of climate change. In other words, what might seem like a silver bullet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions risks undermining other development goals such as ending hunger and poverty and improving health.

We cannot ignore the important role that animal–source foods play, especially in developing countries, when we talk about tackling climate change. Instead we need to find a middle ground.

Transforming Agriculture from Threat to Solution for Environmental Challenges
Sara Scherr, Ecosystem Marketplace
The past year has seen a remarkable evolution of the discourse on agricultural development around the world.

From the sharp focus on increasing production and yields that dominated after the 2008 food price crisis, the narrative expanded after Rio+20 to 'sustainable intensification'—how these yields could be achieved without undue environmental cost. Now discussions are moving—in a still fragmented way–towards a vision of sustainable agriculture systems and landscapes that provide both secure food supplies and the ecosystem services and climate resilience needed for sustainable development in agriculture and more broadly.

Ranchers Tell Their Story
Duane McCartney, Canadian Cattlemen | October 26, 2016
Scott Parker, with the National Film Board, is telling the good news story about grazing through nine short films on how ranchers on the Canadian Prairie are managing their grazing lands to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

Called the "Grasslands Project," the films tell important prairie stories from the southern end of Alberta and Saskatchewan about life on the grasslands. "We held a series of public consultations to determine what the essential prairie stories might be, and we heard from a lot of ranchers and farmers," said Scott.

Ranchers in particular felt that they never received any credit for their land management which is conducive to healthy grasslands ecosystems. So this was an important story from the region that needed to be told to the rest of Canada."

The 'Green' Facts of Grass Versus Grain When Finishing Beef Cattle
Donald Stotts, The Ada News | November 5, 2016
It is a "green" discussion that continues to raise its head periodically. What is better for the environment: Grass–finished or grain–finished beef cattle? Emotions on the subject sometimes run high and facts can be the first fatality as the level of discourse becomes more heated, whether the debate be among those within the cattle industry or with outside groups, said Clint Rusk, head of Oklahoma State University's department of animal science.

"It can be a hot topic in Oklahoma for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the state ranks third nationally in the number of beef cows," he said. "The truth is there are tradeoffs in different aspects of sustainability when comparing the two finishing production systems."

Three Voices on Today's Agriculture
Donald Stotts, The Ada News | November 5, 2016
It is a "green" discussion that continues to raise its head periodically. What is better for the environment: Grass–finished or grain–finished beef cattle? Emotions on the subject sometimes run high and facts can be the first fatality as the level of discourse becomes more heated, whether the debate be among those within the cattle industry or with outside groups, said Clint Rusk, head of Oklahoma State University's department of animal science.

"It can be a hot topic in Oklahoma for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the state ranks third nationally in the number of beef cows," he said. "The truth is there are tradeoffs in different aspects of sustainability when comparing the two finishing production systems."

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My Perspective – Telling Stories
Kate Jackman–Atkinson, My Westman CA | October 21, 2016
In early October, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef released the findings of their two–year "farm to fork" study. In the study, they looked at the environmental, social and economic performance of the Canadian beef industry, as well as setting out a strategy to advance and measure sustainability efforts going forward. The organization noted that it was the first of its kind for the Canadian beef industry and that this science–based information would allow them to communicate more effectively with partners, stakeholders and the public.

The results give the industry some very positive findings they can use to tell their story to the general public. They found that Canada is a very efficient beef producer when it comes to greenhouse gas. They also found that land use for beef production has a number of positive external benefits, including providing 68 per cent of the potential wildlife habitat on the agricultural landscape.

Where's the Beef? Increasingly, It's In The Premium Product Section 
Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Express | October 25, 2016
The beef sector needs to position its meat as a premium product and forget about trying to duke it out with farmed fish and commercial chicken production, says one of the world's best–known food–marketing experts.

Fish and chicken are "the two big meats" because they have the best feed conversion ratios, David Hughes said at the recent Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. "In developing countries where incomes are increasing, as they change their diets, the meats they move towards are chicken and fish because they are more affordable," said Hughes, emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College, London whose expertise has earned him the moniker of 'Dr. Food.'

Making More from Less Key to Livestock Sustainability 
Barbara Duckworth, Western Producer | October 27, 2016
The need to defend cattle's impact on the environment and deflect criticism over the ethics of raising animals for food are among the challenges that groups such as the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef must address.

"Today, consumers are getting all sorts of negative messages on social media, in the mainstream press, about all these negative things about agriculture, about where their food is coming from. Unfortunately, they are farther away from where their food is coming from than where they were in the past," said Deborah Perkins of Rabobank, a member of the global roundtable.

"If they do not know how their food is produced, they are going to believe all these negative messages they are hearing."

Meat, the Unlikely Climate Hero?
New Hope Network | November 3, 2016
Allan Savory is on a mission to change the way we raise livestock. Not just to make livestock production less polluting, but to harness the profound role these animals play in carbon sequestration. In fact, Savory believes livestock management is the most powerful sequestration opportunity we have, and the foundation of regenerative agriculture. That's a bold counter to a growing movement that insists that giving up meat is among the most climate–friendly things consumers can do.

Savory's 2013 Ted Talk, which has received over 3.6 million views, is largely philosophical, exploring how he came to his assertion. Now his Savory Institute is working to bring the message to producers and brands as a conduit to consumers.

Global Beef Producers Allied on Trade Liberalisation
Beef and Lamb NZ News Release | November 4, 2016
Sustainability of beef production was of similar priority for IBA delegates at the conference. Sustainability is viewed as a key requirement for meeting the continued global demand for beef by balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity and social diligence. The IBA will continue to advocate issues such as improving animal health and care, reducing beef's environmental footprint, and ensuring a positive social and economic impact.

The beef sector's future is highly reliant on current and future producers. To this end the IBA was pleased to include young leaders in the conference and will continue to foster capability building within our industry and encourage them to be champions of the principles of the alliance.

Elanco Offers Insight at #ExEx16
Lizzy Schultz, Animal AgWired | October 28, 2016
One of the speakers during the general session of the 2016 Export Exchange this week was Todd Armstrong, Senior Director of Global Market Access at Elanco Animal Health, who gave a discussion about balancing customer expectations with the realities of a growing population.

Armstrong discussed some of the major challenges facing food producers today, such as the population growth, technology convergence, and sustainability concerns, and considered how to continue addressing those challenges as consumers continue to place increased pressure on producers to utilize specific production methods.

BIXS Can Track Carcass Data: Just the Cost Is Unknown
Debbie Furber, Canadian Cattlemen | November 1, 2016
Ownership of carcass information is one of the challenges BIXSco Inc. has had to address as it works toward creating a business model for information sharing across value chains and the industry at large. Packers have always had the option of charging half the grading fee back to producers who rail grade cattle. Even if a packer foots the entire bill for grading or buys the cattle outright on a live basis, does that mean the packer owns the carcass data?

Based on discussions so far, BIXSco senior vice–president Deb Wilson says they are leaning toward a business model that whomever enters information into the BIXS system owns it. And anyone who wants this information must pay for it, plus a small transaction fee to BIXSco Inc. to keep the system afloat.

This is a business model, she says, that could create new revenue streams for each sector. Producers, for example, could learn how to leverage their investment in tags and all of the health and production information they attach to those tags.

"The McDonald's sustainable beef pilot project was really the impetus that got negotiations with packers back on track," says Wilson. "Our role in the project was to track the chain of custody from cow–calf producers, to the feedlots, to the Cargill and JBS plants in Alberta that supply trim to the pattie plant at Spruce Grove, which supplies all of the patties for McDonald's burgers in Canada." Both plants willingly shared chain of custody information free of charge.

VanDrie Group Launches JAN Range Of Convenient Veal Products
The European Supermarket Magazine | October 28, 2016
Netherlands–based VanDrie Group has launched JAN, a new brand of convenient veal products, including veal burgers and pulled veal. The new range was launched at the SIAL trade fair in Paris last week, and it is set to expand in the months to come. "We are noticing that consumers are eating less meat, while also becoming increasingly critical of what they consume," said Henny Swinkels, director of corporate affairs at VanDrie Group. "They are on the lookout for products that are in keeping with a healthy and varied diet. Consumers are also increasingly demanding healthy, easy–to–prepare products.

"We are responding to those trends with the introduction of our convenience brand. In addition to our more traditional products, we are launching JAN to meet the needs of our time."

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Meat Leader Tyson Foods Goes For Protein Alternatives 
Seth Burton, Facts Reporter | October 21, 2016
Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), the Arkansas–based food industry leader, is aiming to reduce the consumption of pork, beef, and chicken in the country by introducing plant proteins. The largest meat processor in the United States, Tyson is the first meat company that is apparently going against its business objectives.

Recently, the company announced that they were acquiring a 5 percent stake in the California firm, Beyond Meat, which makes "meats" from sources of proteins such as peas and soy. A plant–protein, their Beyond Burger started selling earlier this year. Terms of this deal have, however, not been disclosed.

In recent months, Beyond Meat has garnered a lot of praise for coming out with meat alternatives that are made from ingredients like pea flower and carrot fiber.

And to contrast with that here is a Vegan's take on the Beyond Meat Burger:

Beyond Meat and Veggie Grill Partner on 'Bleeding' Burger Organic Authority
Jill Ettinger, Organic Authority | October 29, 2016
Veggie Grill—the fast–casual all vegan restaurant chain has just added a game–changing burger to its menu: Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger.

Beyond Meat, the El Segundo, Calif., based plant meat company has had an exciting few months. After the success of its initial Whole Foods launch of its Beyond Burger over the summer—the veggie burger that's nearly indistinguishable from beef (it sold out in less than an hour—from the meat counter, no less)—the company also secured funding from Tyson Foods, the world's largest producer of meat, poultry, and pork products for a five percent stake in the business.

The Beyond Burger is being served in a traditional burger style: iceberg lettuce (yes, it still exists!), tomatoes, a slice of melting vegan cheese, special sauce, and, of course, a sesame seed bun. It's served with a generous side of fries.

There are many reasons the Beyond Burger is such a hit: it's got a dense meaty texture that much more resembles beef burgers than the brown rice and lentil patties that have passed as burgers for years. There is indeed a pinkness—a fleshy feel—to the burger, which comes from the juice of beets instead of the juice of what was once a thousand–pound steer.

Swedes Re–Invent On–Farm Slaughter
Gordon Davidson, The Scottish Farmer | October 30, 2016
Swedish company Hälsingestintan has come up with a novel idea to improve beef animal welfare and meat quality – mobile abattoirs that visit the animals' home farm, entirely removing any live transport from the food chain.

The two–trailer abattoir trailer design is completely autonomous, with its own electricity, water and heating, offices and changing rooms, slaughterhouse, and a cold store for the meat. It goes directly to the farm, a veterinarian is on hand to ensure good animal welfare, and the animals are lead to the slaughter wagon by the farmer, who of course is very well known to them.

Having pioneered the concept in Sweden, the man behind the company, Franck Ribière, is now taking Hälsingestintan to France, and hopes that its stress–free model will be taken up in other countries where consumers appreciate the link between animal welfare and eating quality.

"We are passionate about providing ethical meat to our consumers," said Mr Ribière. "We are dedicated to good animal welfare and high quality meat. Our ethical concept for meat production eliminates all slaughter transportation, thus improving animal welfare, as the cattle are slaughtered on the farm in their familiar home environment and avoid stressful transportation.

It is interesting that there are calls to protect grazing land in India. While home to the largest dairy herd in the world, and thus also a large exported of beef from both cattle and buffalo, India is also home to the largest vegetarian population in the world. The importance of livestock to their food system and livelihoods must not be underestimated.
National Legislation Required to Reserve Land for Cattle Grazing: Veterinary Experts
Chandigarh Tribune | October 23, 2016
Veterinary scientists from across the country called upon the Union government to initiate national legislation to earmark and protect land for cattle grazing in India. They gave a clarion call to the Centre and state governments for making serious efforts for livestock development as shrinking land was proving fatal for cattle, its health and survival.

Experts and academicians, including vice–chancellors of the eight veterinary universities in the country, converged for the two–day long deliberation on "Sustainable livestock development for food and nutritional security: Way forward" at Khalsa College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (KCVAS).

Cheap Frozen Indian Buffalo Meat Undercuts Australian Beef in Indonesia, with Some Consumers Unaware of Difference 
Carl Curtain, ABC Online, Rural AU | October 25, 2016
Head of commodities for BMI Research Aurelia Britsch, who authored the report into India's beef exports, told ABC Rural the carabeef was an easily–sourced alternative protein.

"Beef prices in Indonesia have been growing very fast over recent years because the market is very tight," she said. "There is not enough meat in the country and the government is keeping quite a tight grip on the import level.

Northern Australia Secures $98m for Key Cattle Transport Routes as Part of Beef Roads Funding 
Carl Curtain, ABC Online, Rural AU | October 23, 2016
Key cattle transport routes in northern Australia have been targeted for funding under the Federal Government's beef roads program.

The announcement comes 18 months after $100 million was first pledged and after a series of meetings were held with the cattle industry in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Of the $98 million tabled on Monday, Queensland will receive $56 million, the Northern Territory secured $30 million, and Western Australia will receive $12 million.

Australia to Invest in Indonesian Cattle Breeders, Minister Says 
Anton Hermansyah. The Jakarta Post | October 25, 2016
Australia aims to invest in Indonesia's cattle breeding industry, for which it has expressed its readiness to adapt to the latter's new "5–plus–1" import policy, a minister has said. Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said under the new policy, the Indonesian government was committed to import one cow intended for breeding for every five cattle imported for feedlotting.

Such a policy would hopefully encourage local–breeding businesses, increase cattle populations and in the end, reduce beef imports, he went on.

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