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


Executive Director's Message

One of the things we often used to hear in the early days of forming the Roundtable was "Sustainability is all very well, but who is going to pay for it?" For the most part we have moved beyond that question, but it is still a key issue in sustainability.

I hope that the reason I hear the question less now is because people appreciate that true sustainability, embracing the three pillars as GRSB does, and using our principles and criteria really does pay for itself – it has to do so to be in line with our definition of sustainability. And yet there are those who struggle with this, because in many cases adaptations that will make a business more sustainable require upfront investment that may not be immediately returned.

There are investors who are specifically looking for business cases where it can be demonstrated that through investment today, not only will an enterprise become more sustainable in the environmental and social sense, but will deliver a better return on investment than business as usual. Look at the investments that Gina Rinehart is making in the Kidman properties she bought. She is certainly not the only investor out there who sees that adapting beef systems can bring a better return; there are numerous examples throughout the world, including many of our own members.

If you know of a specific example of where investment has brought about significant improvements in sustainability, including return on investment, please share them with us. Or, or if you know of a plan that requires investment to realise improvements, let us know – we are looking for pilots that can demonstrate the multiple benefits of our approach to sustainability.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Dateline: February, 2017
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the policies, legislation, regulations and services necessary for Alberta's agriculture, food and forest sectors to grow, prosper and diversify; inspires public confidence in wildfire and forest management and the quality and safety of food; supports environmentally sustainable resource management practices; and leads collaboration that enables safe and resilient rural communities. A couple of their key strategies that support the vision and mission of the GRSB are 1) Collaborate with industry and post–secondary institutions on targeted research projects that enhance growth and environmental stewardship and promote innovation in the agriculture and forest sectors. 2) Facilitate environmentally responsible forest management and on–farm production practices to improve stewardship and reduce the impact of climate change as part of the implementation of Alberta's Climate Leadership Plan.

'We Are Still Learning To Develop Distinctively Australian Farming Systems'
Grain Central (registration) | February 9, 2017
We are still learning to develop distinctively Australian farming systems, the head of the nation's international agricultural research agency says, but we're making progress.The problem with sustainable intensification, Prof. Andrew Campbell, CEO Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, acknowledged, "is that too often, it's easy to spot the intensification, but not so easy to spot the sustainable bit."

Beef Sustainability Nutted Out
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | February 9, 2017
Consensus appears widespread that the four key areas of environmental stewardship, economic resilience, people and the community and animal welfare are where Australia's beef industry needs to focus to ensure sustainability credentials going forward.

The feedback coming through on the draft Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, much of it from producers, indicates those areas are seen as most relevant. Adjustments are likely, however, on the animal welfare and environmental indicators listed in the framework, with some common themes emerging from feedback.

The development of the draft framework has been led by the Red Meat Advisory Council's Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), an 11–person grass roots industry group from across all sectors. It includes some highly respected and very experienced beef industry personnel.

13000 Dairy Farmers In Bord Bia Quality Assurance Scheme
Amy Nora Fitzgibbon, Irish Farmers Journal | February 8, 2017
From late February, farmers will be subject to Bord Bia's new beef and lamb quality assurance scheme which is likely to be called the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS).

One significant change set to be introduced in the new version of the scheme will see the introduction of a one–month re–auditing period being allowed to farmers who fail their first audit.

Story of Modern Agriculture Needs to Be Told to Free Farmers to Feed the World
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Farmscape | February 3, 2017
An Air Quality Specialist with the University of California Davis says the persistent red barn image of agriculture is misleading the public and needs to be dispelled if modern agriculture is to be free to meet the challenge of feeding the world.

"One of the stories that you hear our there is that in the 1950s and 1960s we had a much better agricultural production then. Everything was greener and therefore less environmentally harmful. The opposite is true. We needed way more, three to four times more animals to produce the same amount of food and we did so under conditions that were not welfare enhancing," says Dr. Mitloehner.

"We had to tie animals onto equipment. We had to hand milk or hand raise animals. We had to, or we did put manure straight into the next stream to get rid of it. All of these things are unthinkable today."

How Can Farming In The Pampas And Campos Grasslands Stay Sustainable?
Environmental Research Web | February 3, 2017
The Río de la Plata grasslands that cross Uruguay and parts of Argentina and Brazil have been home to beef cattle since the 16th century. But the land is under pressure, with crops, especially soybean, replacing native grassland at an increasing rate, and livestock production becoming more intensive.

Now a team from the Netherlands, France, Uruguay, the US and Argentina has systematically reviewed the literature on land–use change and ecosystem service provision in the region. They discovered that land–use change and grazing regimes with low forage allowances tend to boost soil erosion and reduce soil organic carbon stocks and the diversity of plants, birds and mammals.

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Texoma Cattlemen's Conference Highlights Sustainability
Wisconsin State Farmer | February 7, 2017
The U.S. beef cattle industry continues to improve efficiencies and enhance production, which results in a more sustainable product for consumers.

To support producer education, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will host its sixth annual Texoma Cattlemen's Conference, the premier beef conference in the Southern Great Plains. Entitled The Future of Sustainable Beef, the conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24, at the Ardmore Convention Center.

This year's conference will showcase the efforts of several participating U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) member entities, including the Noble Foundation. The USRSB is a national effort to help make the entire U.S. beef value chain more sustainable.

Keeping Land In Grass Has a Side Benefit  
Kristine Tapley, Alberta Express | February 6, 2017
The beef industry has been struggling to retain and attract new producers while the average age of farmers, at 54, keeps creeping up. The next generation of cattle producers might be looking for something different.

The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) released the National Beef Sustainability Assessment and Strategy this fall. The industry garnered top marks in most categories, however, producer viability was a weak link. According to long–term average margins, a cow herd of 200 head provides a total annual income of $17,559. This will not support a family and is below Canada's low–income cut–off. Up to 84 per cent of those in the cow–calf sector must rely on off–farm employment.

Historically Quiet, Cargill Will Be Vocal on Trade, Immigration  
Martin Moylan, Albert Lea Tribune | February 4, 2017
Cargill's top executive said the agribusiness giant will affirm its pro–trade and immigration stances as the country debates issues that matter to the company and the nation's economy. CEO David MacLennan said his company won't hesitate to share its views and expertise.

"When it comes to trade, for example, we'll be clear we think it's a good thing for the country," he said. "Same thing with immigration. We're an international company. "We've had a history of employing people of all nationalities. They come to Minnesota to bring their ideas, to bring their capital. We depend on an efficient and transparent immigration program for us to be successful. We need it."

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Drought And Food Insecurity In The Horn Of Africa  
Medium | February 6, 2017
The Horn of Africa is facing one of the worst droughts in decades, resulting in food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition.

Two consecutive years of below–average rainfall, combined with the most extreme El Niño in 50 years, have left 5.6 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Food and water aid are desperately needed throughout the region, and livestock aid is a priority in south and south–east Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia is leading the humanitarian response and working with humanitarian actors to rapidly respond to the growing needs.

BREXIT: Welfare Standards Key for Beef Sector
FG Insight | February 6, 2017
With import markets also key to some livestock farmers' inputs, the beef sector is rightly keeping an eye on its margins. Here is what our panel had to say about beef and Brexit. What do you think the Brexit vote means for UK farming?

Tom Cockburn: What the future levels of support will be from the British Government is interesting and there is no easy answer to this. There is uncertainty over whether the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme will remain.

Chris Dodd: If we can secure good trade deals with other countries then it could mean we are not reliant on subsidies, but there is no indication as to how those will pan out. The biggest threat for the beef industry is if they let cheap imports in. We need to make sure this does not happen and if they do allow them, then they are not at a lower standard than what we produce to. We could ruin the beef industry overnight if this happened.

US Meat Industry Groups Urge Trump to Start Trade Talks With Japan After TPP Exit  
VietNam.Net | February 9, 2017
Two U.S. meat industry groups sent a joint letter on Tuesday to President Donald Trump, calling on the new leader of the country to launch bilateral free trade talks with Japan at his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington on Friday.

The meat industry is calling for an alternative to the Trans–Pacific Partnership now that the Trump government has decided to withdraw the United States from the multilateral free trade pact, making it impossible for the industry to benefit from tariff reductions agreed under the TPP, which also includes Japan.

"We urge you to initiate free trade agreement negotiations with nations in the Asia–Pacific region beginning with Japan," Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and John Weber, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in the joint letter.

Weekly Outlook: Cattle Industry Still in Expansion Mode, at Least for Now
James Mintert, Successful Farming | February 6, 2016
Once a year the USDA releases its comprehensive cattle report, which includes survey–based estimates of the all cattle and calves inventory, the 2016 calf crop, beef and dairy cow inventories, in addition to a variety of other inventory estimates that provide clues regarding future cattle and beef supplies.

This year's report, released on January 31, was of particular interest because of the collapse in both fed and feeder cattle prices that took place during 2016. The dramatic price decline, and resulting falloff in profitability by cow–calf producers, led to questions about possible impacts on industry expansion. Last week's report leaves little doubt that the industry is still in expansion mode, at least for now.

In Praise Of Meat, Milk and Eggs  
Eat This Podcast | February 1, 2017
For poor people, a little animal source food goes a long way. Excluding animal products from your diet as a vegetarian or vegan is a choice some people have the luxury to make, and if they know what they're doing, and take care, they can be perfectly healthy.

But there are probably far more people who have no choice in the matter. They would eat meat if they could, but they simply can't afford it. For those people, a little bit of animal source food – milk, meat, eggs – can make a great difference to their health and wellbeing. It can be easy to forget that, in the clamour for meatless Mondays and other efforts to respond to climate change. Listen to 24:52 Podcast HERE

In a Post–Truth Media World, Facts About Beef Research Be Damned
By Alison Van Eenennaam. BEEF Magazine | February 8, 2017
How could I create a fake news story? For starters, how about a little sensationalism in the headline to incense and shock the readers and generate some extra "clickability." Perhaps a hook about a teenager getting raped to death. That should get some serious traffic.

That seemed to be the approach taken by New York Times journalist Michael Moss back in January 2015 when he wrote "Research lab lets livestock suffer in quest for profit," skewering the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (US MARC). There were numerous other horrific claims in the article.

It was the allegations of the death raping of the teenage cow and experimental surgery being undertaken by untrained, unskilled and unsupervised staff that really stuck in my mind. I was therefore glad when the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced it was going to investigate and audit the allegations made in the New York Times article. Specifically they stated they were going to investigate "33 statements from the article to evaluate and attempt to determine their veracity".

So imagine my surprise when the OIG final report was released Friday Dec. 16, 2016 and I was none the wiser. The OIG report stated that of the 33 statements made by the New York Times, "we determined that only 7 were materially accurate — 26 were inaccurate, lacked sufficient context or were uncorroborated." New York Times, that is a 21% material accuracy rate – also known as an F in my classes. The OIG report further clarified that "Overall, we did not note evidence indicating a systemic problem with animal welfare at USMARC."

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