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


Executive Director's Message

I was in Uruguay for the World Meat Congress recently and presented on some aspects of sustainability in a panel along with Jeff Fitzpatrick Stillwell from Canada, Ruy Fachini from Brazil, and Hsing Huang on behalf of LEAP. Throughout the congress there were many mentions of different aspects of sustainability and about gaining public trust.

It was heartening to hear from IMS members how they are increasingly involved in sustainability initiatives and how the meat industry as a whole is united in the need for both putting sustainability into practice and sharing what they do with consumers to gain public trust. It was also gratifying to realise that of the livestock sectors, beef has taken the lead, and that our roundtable structure is providing a useful example for others.

We need our members to share their commitments to sustainability as well, to help us in turn to show what the beef industry has already achieved and will continue to do. Next week I will be in China, where there is also considerable interest in the sustainability of food in general, including beef. We hope to be able to increase demand for sustainable beef sourced from around the world, and of course in order to be able to translate that into market demand, we will need demonstrated success at scale.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Livestock Industry Fights for Right to Be "Herd" 
Alice Rocha, The California Aggie | November 7, 2016
One of the most prominent issues in sustainable animal agriculture today is debunking the idea that not eating meat is the best way to reduce carbon emissions from livestock.

The amount of news articles claiming that meat will be the destruction of Earth has grown dramatically in the last few years. CNN, The Washington Post and many other news outlets have all released pieces against animal agriculture. Many of these reports have actually been revised because they presented incorrect information to the public.

The beef cattle industry bears the brunt of bad publicity, mainly around issues of water consumption and land usage.

Beef Sustainability Groups Strive for Global Reach
Barbara Duckworth, The Western Producer | November 10, 2016
The future of agriculture and the beef industry may depend on how diverse groups are able to work together and promote sustainable practices around the world. The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef was incorporated in 2013 and consists of producers, farm associations, processors, retailers, non–government organizations, as well as national and regional roundtables.

"You are bringing together people who want to work together," said global roundtable chair Dennis Laycraft of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. "We are trying to bring together those who have a vested interest in the future of the industry, whether it is from those who are interested in biodiversity or those interested in resource usage or another group interested in climate change," he said.

CCA Report: Preparing for Climate Change 
Dan Darling, Canadian Cattlemen | November 15, 2016
In October, I travelled to New Zealand for the annual meeting of the presidents and chief executive officers of the International Beef Alliance (IBA). Comprised of the national organizations representing beef cattle producers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay and the United States, the IBA accounts for 46 per cent of the world's beef cattle production and 63 per cent of global beef exports.

The purpose of the IBA is to progress issues of common interest to ensure a strong and profitable global beef industry.

We spent a great deal of time discussing our shared concern about the growing level of anti–trade rhetoric amongst politicians and activists. I am pleased that this discussion culminated in IBA members agreeing to sign a reaffirmation of the alliance's statement of principles that confirm our shared commitment to trade liberalization, sustainable beef production and leadership development of young producers.

Sustainable Livestock Production: Veterinarians Play Critical Role
John Maday, Drovers | November 16, 2016
Facing that challenge, those food companies, producer groups, environmental organizations and others formed the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB)in 2012. GRSB defines sustainable beef as "a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that priorities planet, people, animals and progress." The group held its second global conference in Alberta in October.Although the GRSB focuses on beef, many of the same general principles apply to dairy production.

Throughout the conference, presenters discussed and debated methods for benchmarking sustainability indicators and measuring progress. While the topic is complex and sometimes divisive, one fact is clear: improving sustainability in agriculture requires reduction of waste, and resource use overall, across the production chain.

Ag Leaders Unite for Inaugural Sustainable Ag Summit 
Jamie Johansen, Animal AgWired | November 21, 2016
More than 500 farmers, retailers and other stakeholders in agriculture gathered for the inaugural Sustainable Agriculture Summit, co–hosted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, held last week in Atlanta, GA. For several years, dairy has brought together representatives of the full dairy chain – from farmer to retailer – to discuss opportunities to build consumer trust.

This summit engaged other farm sectors including beef, pork, poultry and crop. A primary focus of the summit was the need to tell dairy's and agriculture's sustainability story.

Their video report of the summit that includes quotes from dairy farmers Sue McCloskey and Steve Maddox as well as Chad Frahm, Senior Vice President of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. See 2:41 video HERE.

Cattle's Impact on Soil Health Is Real and Valuable
Alan Newport, BEEF Magazine | November 9, 2016
When I first started learning about grazing management,the concept that most blew my mind was animal impact. Not anymore. I've seen it with my own eyes, and scientific documentation is growing steadily.

For those uninitiated to the term, animal impact is the cumulative effect of plant biting, saliva, urination, defecation, trampling and all the other things grazing animals do to plants and their habitat.

The idea that these things can be positive when applied in the right ways and right timing can best be understood by thinking about the immense herds in which ruminants lived and traveled in significant portions of the year, and the apparently high organic matter in prairie soils that resulted and are now degraded all over the world.

These days, those of us in the livestock industries should think about applying animal impact in terms of animal herd density, or stock density. That refers to the number of animals present in a paddock at one time, and it effectively compounds herd effect.

Not anymore.

I've seen it with my own eyes, and scientific documentation is growing steadily.

For those uninitiated to the term, animal impact is the cumulative effect of plant biting, saliva, urination, defecation, trampling and all the other things grazing animals do to plants and their habitat.
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'Start With Your Heart' in Order to Win the Trust of Consumers 
Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Farmer | November 9, 2016
It's better to talk about the shared values that you have with a consumer than to start spouting facts.

"We are not going to advertise our way to public trust," Crystal Mackay of Guelph–based Farm and Food Care told an audience of ranchers, food executives and beef industry officials at the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef last month.

"This is built on doing the right thing first and communicating it second. This is also a business issue. It doesn't matter how efficient and modern and innovative you are or how much you invest in animal health, biosecurity and traceability if your next–door neighbour doesn't give you permission to grow cattle."

Blog: World Meat Congress in Uruguay 
John Royle, NFU | November 10, 2016
After a 22–hour journey involving trains, two flights changing in Sao Paulo Brazil and a hire car that should have been scrapped a few years ago, Charles Sercombe and I arrived at the 21st World Meat Congress in Punte del Este, Uruguay.

The congress was being hosted by the Uruguayan meat industry body INAC (Instituto Nacional de Carnes) in conjunction with the IMS (International Meat Secretariat). Over 790 delegates from 36 countries were present making it a truly international experience.

First on the agenda was a look at global trade and we heard from Richard Brown of GIRA who gave an overview of the global meat sector. Population and income growth, along with a rising middle class in developing countries was driving consumption despite higher meat prices.

Justin Sherrard from Rabobank continued on the same theme suggesting the global outlook was extremely positive, if not competitive, with continued challenges between species. No doubt markets will become more complex but supply chains had to find ways of connecting with the consumer and be prepared to adapt to ensure the chain remains profitable.

When Environmentalists Put on Cowboy Boots
Bryan Weech, BEEF Magazine | November 10, 2016
After a career path that took me on a tour of the beef industry by working in jobs that gave me experience in nearly every aspect of beef production–I've done everything from cowboying, to managing a university beef research farm, to working for one of the world's largest beef processors, to working at CattleFax, and serving as a director for what was at the time the largest natural and organic beef company–my career took an unexpected turn when I joined World Wildlife as the director of livestock, where I was responsible to work across the environmental and beef industry to collaboratively find ways to increase the sustainability of beef production.

This job took me around the world as I worked with stakeholders across the beef value chain to find ways to build collaboration, and find ways to work together to contribute to a more environmentally friendly, socially responsible and financially viable beef industry.

Matlock Presents at Consumer Goods Forum's Sustainable Retail Summit in Paris 
University of Arkansas News | November 8, 2016
Marty Matlock, executive director of the University of Arkansas Office for Sustainability, was an invited speaker at the Consumer Goods Forum's Sustainable Retail Summit in Paris in October.

Matlock is professor of biological and agricultural engineering. His research focus is metrics and measurements for sustainable systems, and his research team is the world's leader in agricultural and land–based sustainability assessment.

Matlock presented research from his team, including Greg Thoma, professor of chemical engineering, Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness, and Jack Cothren, professor of geosciences and director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies. Their research quantified the impact of technological innovation on agricultural sustainability in the U.S. over the past 40 years.
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Despite numerous recent scientific publications debunking this type of health scare and the need for fat in the diet, they continue to be published (I'm not advocating reading them, just be aware that they are appearing all the time and add to consumers' confusion).
The Heart Un–Healthy Western Diet
Tech Featured | November 8, 2016
"The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of 'real food for real people,' you'd better live real close to a real good hospital." –Neal D. Barnard, M.D.

When combined with inactivity and smoking, the western diet has become lethal. So cut down on red meat, especially beef and change to a prudent heart healthy diet. So, as an old English Proverb warns: don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.

Here's a different perspective on TTIP than what you would hear from the other side of the atlantic, from an Irish MEP. Both agree however, that the chances of TTIP becoming a reality are now vanishingly small.
TTIP Trade Deal Is Dead In The Water – Harkin
Richard Halleron, Agriland | November 11, 2016
"Hello Trump: Goodbye TTIP."

This was the view expressed by MEP Marian Harkin regarding the prospects of the TTIP trade deal being agreed between the United States and Europe, in the wake of this week's presidential election result in the US.

"Donald Trump's priority will be to sort out a new trading arrangement with Mexico and Canada. His focus is not on Europe.

"This means that we are looking at the total wind down of the TTIP negotiations or the evolution of an alternative strategy, which will focus on the development of specific trade deals between the US and Europe across a range of sectors. And agriculture may well be one of these."

"Both CETA and one assumes Mercosur, if it becomes reality, will offer tariff free access for beef on to European market. This would sound the death knell for the Irish beef industry."

There have been several articles from around the world referencing the Oxford Martin article in Nature. The original article, at time of compiling this newsletter, had only been viewed 1,700 times which shows that most readers of popular articles don't refer to the source. By contrast, the Google search "tax meat to cut emissions" returns half a million results.

There are several factual errors in the article below, perpetuating some popular myths about livestock emissions, but perhaps the most obvious deficiency in both the popular articles and the Oxford Martin "Nature" article is that they seem to believe that a tax on meat would lead to change.

Taxes are a regressive way of trying to effect change, and in a global market where no global consensus on a tax is likely, all it would do is change consumption patterns to some extent. It may, depending on how it was implemented, also impact production in some of the most efficient beef producing countries by encouraging a race to the bottom in price to compensate for the tax.

None of these things would change anything about the sustainability of production, the supposed concern of the authors. Since that must be obvious to them, it is clear that their concern is not with reducing emissions, but reducing viability of beef production.

The Other Carbon Tax: Why Meat Eaters Should Pay More for Beef
Jason Best, TakePart | November 8, 2016
The How much extra should you be paying for your hamburger to compensate for all the damage that the all–beef patty is doing to our climate? How about 40 percent more?

That's the figure put forth this week by a team of British and American researchers in a provocative study that argues we should be putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to addressing the significant amount of global warming pollution generated by food production–especially livestock.

About a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from raising food, and much of it can be tied to the production of meat. The global beef industry is particularly egregious, from its massive clearing of carbon–storing forests to the cattle's odious production of methane, which is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon.

As such, the authors of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, propose what would essentially be a 40 percent carbon tax on beef. Taking into account the climate effects of other types of foods, the researchers likewise propose a 20 percent tax on milk, 15 percent on lamb, 8.5 percent on poultry, 7 percent on pork, and 5 percent on eggs.
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