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


Executive Director's Message

Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 is successful and rewarding for you personally and professionally, and that it brings new impetus to the sustainable beef industry.

I think the Breakthrough article by Marian Swain and the response by GRSB member Jude Capper are really worth a full read, despite the length of the Swain article; it also contains numerous useful references that many of our members could benefit from having at hand when challenged on sustainability issues.

One thing is certain in 2017, and that is that pressure on the sustainability of food production will continue, and we can be sure that we will face the same mixture of justified concern about avoidable impacts together with baseless fear mongering by people with an agenda that has nothing to do with sustainability. The only way we can deal with this is to remain open, transparent and honest about what the industry is doing, where we have come from and where we are going to.

Excellent work on LCAs in the US, Canada, Australia and other countries demonstrates the tremendous improvements made in all areas of sustainability in the past few decades and we should continue to use those to show that the beef industry is doing its part to make a sustainable future for a planet with 9.5 billion people.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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The Future of Meat
Marian Swain, The Breakthrough | December, 14, 2016
As global demand for meat grows, the environmental "hoofprint" of livestock production could grow, too. Demand–side strategies are unlikely to reverse the long historical trend of increasing meat consumption as countries develop economically, but there are ways to improve the environmental performance of livestock systems on the production end.

Contrary to popular perception, modern, intensive livestock production can offer environmental efficiencies compared to traditional, lower–input systems. In a world where billions of people want meat on their plates, it will be crucial to leverage the efficiency of intensive systems to meet demand and minimize environmental harm.

The Future’s Bright; The Future’s…Meaty? A Response to Breakthrough's Essay on Meat Production 
Jude Capper, Bovidiva | December 20, 2016
This week I was asked to respond to an excellent Breakthrough article on the environmental impacts of beef production. As ever, I hope the comments below provide food for thought (pardon the pun) and I urge you to read the full Breakthrough article as well as the other comments by Jayson Lusk, Maureen Ogle and Alison van Eenennaam.

Every food has an environmental impact, whether it’s cheeseburgers or tofu, coffee or corn.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us and, as a scientist, sustainability consultant and parent, I don’t have a problem with food production being one of the biggest contributors to global environmental impacts. Why? Because food production is one of the few industries that are absolutely essential for human life. However, it’s clear that we need to take steps to reduce environmental impacts from human activity, and as such, the livestock industry is often criticised for both resource use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

What's More Sustainable: Grain–Fed or Grass–Fed Beef?
BEEF Magazine | December 8, 2016
With more attention being paid to sustainability, there is a growing debate about what constitutes sustainable beef production. This leads to the question: is there one production system more sustainable than another? And given the increased focused on sustainability, the sustainability of conventional vs. grass fed beef production is a fair question. The question of which is more sustainable is difficult to answer since it depends upon what area of sustainability you’re focused on.

For example, the grain–finishing system that represents approximately 95% of U.S. beef production is considered by critics to be the pinnacle of what’s wrong with the U.S. beef system. Critics claim the resources used to raise the grain to feed to cattle would be better used to raise food to be consumed directly by humans. What the critics of the grain–fed beef system fail to recognize is that from a carbon footprint basis, the grain–fed model actually has the smallest footprint.

Forages Expert Puts Grazing First to Meet Beef Industry Challenges 
Jane Atyeo, Tri–State Neighbor | December 15, 2017
Beef producers face plenty of challenges – from floods and droughts to consumers who have a growing hunger for chicken rather than beef.

But one expert says feed can be less of a challenge to a cattle operation, pointing out opportunities to produce high–quality animal products from high–quality forages.

Garry Lacefield worked for 41 years as a forages expert with the University of Kentucky Extension. He spoke to a group of about 60 cattle producers Nov. 30 at the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association’s annual convention in Watertown.

He noted several other countries – from Mongolia to Ireland – that raise their beef cattle without feeding them grain. The meat is better that way, he said, pointing to studies conducted on Angus steers that have found a forage diet results in leaner, more palatable meat compared to steers on a grain–based diet.

Focus On the Back Pocket, Meat Scientists Told  
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | December 14, 2016
The world of meat science could do with more of an entrepreneurial culture. Countries like Australia and Ireland, for whom beef exports are a very big driver of the economy, should be at the forefront of that push.

This from one of Europe’s leading formulators of research priorities in food science, Declan J Troy, who spoke in Australia recently on how critical it is that discoveries be transferred from the lab to industry. He said the big push in Europe was for public research that delivered an economic impact and key to that was a knowledge transfer imperative.

Innovation was the ability to take new ideas and translate them into commercial outcomes, he said. To that end, a technology centre would be launched next year in Ireland which is a collaborative entity led by industry.

Beef Industry Small Part of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Deborah Gertz Husar, Herald–Whig | December 18, 2016
When it comes to protecting the environment, don't blame greenhouse gas emission problems on beef cattle or people who like a good steak. Not only is bovine flatulence not to blame, 98 percent of methane emissions from cattle are released through their mouth in a process called eructation, according to researchers at Oklahoma State University and reported by Drovers Cattle Network.

"As with the production of all foods, beef production results in greenhouse gas emissions; however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates direct emissions from the U.S. beef industry are only 1.9 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions," said Sara Place, assistant professor of sustainable beef cattle systems for OSU. By comparison, transportation and electricity accounted for 25.8 percent and 30.6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.

Moredun Targets Livestock Gases  
The Scottish Farmer | December 29, 2016
Grazing ruminants are responsible for approximately 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture in Scotland, according to a recent report from Moredun.

Researchers there are focussed on reducing emissions intensity – the amount of GHG emitted per unit of meat or milk produced – as a way of reducing overall agricultural emissions in Scotland, a key requirement for the country to meet internationally agreed reduction targets.

Senior Moredun research scientist, Dr Philip Skuce, explained that production–limiting diseases were a significant constraint on efficient and sustainable livestock production in Scotland and around the world, and that dealing effectively with such endemic diseases offered an opportunity to reduce emissions from the livestock sector, often without compromising productivity or farm economics.

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Here's The Beef: Wendy's Joins the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef 
Sarah Wells, Justmeans | December 9, 2016
We love all of our products, but none is more important to Wendy’s than our hamburgers. We have a great team dedicated to sourcing the highest quality fresh never frozen North American beef for Wendy’s.

We recently took another step in our long–time commitment to sourcing quality beef responsibly by joining the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Their goal is simple – to work together with lots of different stakeholders to sustain responsible beef production for years to come.

One of our team members who lives and breathes quality beef every day is also one of our rising stars, Manager of Quality Assurance for Beef, Sarah Wells. Sarah is one of the most upbeat and optimistic people you’ll ever meet. Fortunately, she loves to travel because we keep her on the road all the time. She’s an expert in meat science and animal care, and she taught at the collegiate level before joining Wendy’s two and a half years ago.

'Cattle Should Be Considered Part of The Solution To Global Warming'
Richard Halleron, Agriland | December 11, 2016
Delegates attending the recent World Meat Congress in Uruguay, were given a different perspective entirely on how cattle and grazing techniques can actually ameliorate the impact of global warming. The views were expressed by Alan Savory, courtesy of his presentation to the event.

A native of Zimbabwe, Savory has spent the last 50 years studying the causes of desertification around the world. In 2009, he set up the Savory Institute in Colorado. This centre is one of 11 finalists in the Virgin Earth Challenge, a US$25m initiative for the successful commercialisation of ways to capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and keep them out without any compensatory impact.

He said that land is desperate for animals, adding that it is actually the opposite of the concept that is being used to explain global warming.

"In other words, livestock are not the problem but the solution."
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Australia Welcomes Major Vietnamese Beef Investment 
Helen Clark, Global Meat News | December 15, 2016
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has welcomed the first large–scale Vietnamese agricultural investment in the country – the purchase of an AU$18 million ($13.6m) cattle station by An Vien Pastoral Holding and Agriculture Company in the Northern Territory.

Beef Competitors Catching Up On Traceability 
Shan Goodwin, Stock & Land | December 17, 2016
Australia’s world–leading beef integrity and traceability systems are paying big dividends but there is work to be done to stay ahead of the game. The chief executive officer of Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) new integrity and information systems company, Dr Jane Weatherley, delivered that message during a recent presentation in Adelaide.

Speaking at the red meat industry forum held as part of MLA’s annual general meeting, she said the answer to taking integrity systems to a new level potentially lay in data and infrastructure that already exists.

"We have the data, infrastructure and mandate from industry to crack on with a value chain digital strategy and work in that space is starting now," she said.

Jolley: Five Minutes with Steve Kay (Again)
Chuck Jolley, Drovers | December 20, 2016
Q. What is the biggest issue facing the U.S. cattle/beef industry in the coming year?

A. Three words – protein, protein, protein. Beef, pork and chicken production will each be larger in 2017 than in 2016. This will push total red meat and poultry supplies over the 100 billion pound mark for the first time and mark the third straight year of record supplies.

How beef performs in the face of cheaper pork and chicken will determine prices for all classes of cattle this year. Strong demand at home and abroad is therefore essential, especially as cattle numbers will be slightly larger in 2017 than in 2016. Larger supplies in 2016 meant total cattle slaughter for the year to December 10 was up 1.515 million head or 5.6% on the same period in 2015. Total slaughter in 2017 will be larger again, as beef herd expansion continued in 2016, albeit at a slower pace than in 2014 and 2015.

U.S. Poised to Reinstate Tariffs Tied to EU Beef Ban
Len Bracken, The U.S. is poised to reinstate punitive tariffs on an array of European Union agricultural products in response to the long–standing EU ban on the import of hormone–treated beef, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Dec. 22 in a press statement.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a statement that countries not party to the U.S.–EU Memorandum of Understanding on High–Quality Beef are unfairly filling much of the 45,000 metric ton quota that is not subject to duties.

Several senior lawmakers expressed strong support for the action by USTR. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R–Texas) said in a statement that the hearing and public comment announcement is a "huge step" that allows the U.S. to determine how to hold the EU accountable for its unfair trade practices against U.S. beef.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R–Kan.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said in a statement that the U.S. beef industry produces the safest, most affordable beef in the world.

Government Must Take Beef Income Crisis to Europe – Woods
Sean Cummins, ArgriLand | December 24, 2016
The Irish Government must make the European Commission aware that the current income crisis seen in the beef industry is as a result of dairy policy change, IFA’s Angus Woods has said.

Speaking at the recent IFA 'Beef Challenges 2017’ event, the IFA National Livestock Chairman said there is severe difficulties in the market place and it is caused by a number of factors.

"At the EU level, the problem in the market place is largely caused by the increase in the dairy cull cows coming onto the market. "And that is caused as a direct response to the dairy income crisis of the last couple of years.

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