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


Executive Director's Message

This Connect is a week later than it would normally have been, largely because of my visit to Swaziland and the IFAD / ILRI meeting held there. IFAD has been piloting approaches to assist in the offtake of cattle from smallholder herds, where traditional approaches to marketing cattle are still very much the norm.

Sales are often made to pay for some specific event or expenditure, which means that cattle are often marketed in sub optimal condition. As total off take per year is very low, cattle are often several years old before they are marketed. The approach taken in the pilot projects has been to establish aggregation centres – referred to as feedlots, though in fact feed regimes are based largely on fodder, while some of the processors will further finish animals before slaughter.

Having visited our member projects in Namibia with MeatCo and Solidaridad previously, I was intrigued that the project in Swaziland did not involve many of the value chain players to a significant degree. The main beneficiary of this aggregation approach seem to me to be the processors, whereas although the smallholder producers now have a ready and convenient offtake for their occasional sales, it was not immediately clear that they would earn more, or even as much, than before.

This started a discussion between a number of participants at the meeting that regional information sharing could play a constructive role in the sustainable development of the beef industry as it evolves from being a largely subsistence one to becoming more market oriented as the population of Africa, especially the urban population, expands rapidly. We are seeking partners to become involved in a Southern Africa regional discussion. The first intention is information exchange and learning, but there is certainly future potential to evolve into a regional roundtable for sustainable beef.

Some of the stories below regarding trade relationships on both sides of the Atlantic underline the need for constructive dialogue between regions, as it is certain that unilateral actions and subsequent reactions are likely to damage all parties, while building consensus on sustainable solutions would benefit all.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 Regional Launch
EIN News | February, 2017
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is partnering with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to implement the 'Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050' (ASL2050) project.

The project aims to facilitate dialogue, knowledge sharing and consultation among livestock, health and environment stakeholders in order to identify opportunities and threats associated with the long–term development of livestock, and to agree upon priority reforms and investments to create the capacity needed to ensure a sustainable development of the livestock sector in the next three or four decades.

ASL2050 includes six African governments: Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, which are anticipated to experience major expansion and intensification in their livestock systems in the coming decades.

Such initiatives as the one below cater to, of course, a small niche market. The fact that they profile themselves as "sustainable beef" is interesting, as one would have thought that their customers are looking for a specific narrative around grassfed.
Raising the Steaks: The Seattle Startup Crowdfunding Sustainable Beef  
Jody Allard, The Guardian | February 21, 2017
If crowdsourcing makes you think of fundraising campaigns for smartwatches and wine coolers rather than sustainable food, you're not alone. But a new Seattle–based startup called Crowd Cow is hoping to change that.

Crowd Cow works like most crowdfunding campaigns. Every few days, the company hosts an "event" on its website featuring cows from one of the seven beef ranchers it works with on the west coast. There are photos and videos of the ranch itself, to give people a better understanding of the farmers and the cows on the ranch.

Customers can then select cuts of beef they wish to buy from the ranch. Once enough beef has been purchased, the cow "tips" – and customers become "steakholders" in the cow. "Steakholders" then receive their beef (frozen in dry ice) in as little as a few days. If the cow doesn't tip, there is no charge. But most Crowd Cow cows tip within one or two days.

Crowd Cow, which started taking orders in mid–2015, is part of a growing movement to promote sustainable meat production. The startup creates a market for more grass–fed beef, which keeps more cows grazing on pastures and gives farmers a more sustainable alternative to raising calves to sell to factory farms.

While we certainly applaud the sentiment, and many of our members including GTPS, Aliança da Terra, NWF, WWF, are working on making beef chains deforestation free, there remain for me two niggling questions every time the discussion arises. The first is; "Why Beef?" – Why is beef always considered to be the major driver? Figures from GTPS in Brazil tell us that the area of land occupied by the beef industry has shrunk between the 1990s and today (from 188 million ha to 166 million ha).

Clearly those are not the figures used in the blog post below. Where does the discrepancy arise? If the reduction in beef area is true, but cattle predominate as a first enterprise in newly deforested areas, should we not be talking about displacement of the beef industry by cropping (soy, sugar cane and palm oil), and apportioning this at least equally to indirect deforestation through agricultural expansion elsewhere?

The second question concerns the economics of land conversion (be it clearing forest or converting cerrado, prairie or savannah). The land so cleared is worth more, and earns more once it has been converted, whether that is in South America, North America or anywhere else. If it did not, it would not be cleared.

Without a financial model that makes keeping land intact attractive, how can we expect to stop its conversion? While I do believe there is a certain amount we can do through the value chain of large influential companies, and I am in complete support of our members work in that regard, I am afraid it is not enough to achieve what we need. Economics is the driver of land conversion, and therefore the solution needs to take account of economics.

The Future of Beef is Deforestation–free | Blog Posts | WWF  
Jason Clay, WWF.org | February 21, 2017
When a large, global food company commits to deforestation–free commodities, its entire supply chain listens. And when McDonald's does so, other global food companies follow suit. That's why the company's commitment to source only deforestation–free beef by 2020 in regions with identified risks relating to the preservation of forests holds such promise to protect critical habitats, including Latin America's most valuable ecosystems.

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Record Animal Protein Production Forecast out to 2020  
RaboResearch | September, 2016
Rabobank forecasts record global beef production out to 2020, underpinned by increasing production from the world's two largest beef producers, the US and Brazil. Furthermore, other key proteins are also expected to see significant increases in production out to 2020.

With the exclusion of Australia and New Zealand, who are facing lower beef supplies out to 2020 compared to 2015, nearly all key beef–producing countries in the world are expected to increase beef production.

Noble Foundation to Test Beef Sustainability Metrics  
Drovers | February 27, 2017
Environmental, social and economic sustainability is a long–held objective of the United States beef industry and the focus of a new, national research project. McDonald's USA, Tyson Foods, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Beef Marketing Group (BMG) and Golden State Foods today announced the two–year pilot research project that will seek methods to improve sustainability across the entire beef value chain, test metrics established by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and explore scalable solutions that could be applicable to beef production across the country.

"Our efforts will examine every step of beef production from the ranch to the consumer's plate," said Billy Cook, Ph.D., director of the Noble Foundation Agricultural Division. "For generations, agricultural producers have found ways to increase production through more efficient practices and responsible land stewardship. This project translates this approach of continuous improvement into a real–world, systems–wide application that holds the potential to someday benefit producers and customers around the globe."

Beef Industry Faces Challenges, Opportunities
Dan Singleton, Mountain View Gazette | February 21, 2017
Delegates at the recent Ranching Opportunities 2017 conference at Olds College were given an update on the verified sustainable beef framework being developed by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). Fawn Jackson is the executive director of the CRSB, which is dedicated to the promotion of responsible beef production in Canada. She gave a speech on the project.

We are going to be launching the verification framework in Q4 of 2017," said Jackson. "So what is it? It is going to be a label on product that says that that product was verified to be sustainable.

"It is going to cover five principles of sustainability. It is going to be developed transparently through both the multi stakeholders that sit at the CRSB but also in public consultations.

"So the message that is going to go with verified sustainable must be consistent and clear and accurate and transparent and scientifically sound."

Italy's Cremonini Expands in Canada And Hong Kong  
ESM – The European Supermarket Magazine | February 21, 2017
Italian food manufacturer Cremonini has opened a cured meat plant in Canada and is preparing to acquire a large Hong Kong–based distributor. Speaking to daily Il Sole 24 Ore, the managing director of Inalca (a subsidiary of the Cremonini group) said that the meat plant is a joint venture with Canadian company Italpasta. He added that Inalca has 60% of the shares of the €4 million partnership that will also serve the US market.

Ontario–based Italpasta produces pasta and imports Italian brands such as Colussi, Bauli, Misura, and Agnesi. For its part, Inalca is dedicated to manufacturing beef, cured meats, and snacks.

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US Beef Industry Reiterates Support for Tariffs Against EU Over Hormone–Treated Beef Ban  
Ingrid Mezo, Food Chemical News via AgraNet (subscription) | February 16,2017
TThe U.S. beef and veal industry urged the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) at a Feb. 15 hearing to reinstate retaliatory tariffs on a range of products from the European Union over the EU's ban on hormone treated U.S. beef.

"Beef Will Be the Big Loser"– CETA Reactions  
Amy McShane, Irish Farmers Journal | February 16, 2017
Farm organisations have reacted to the approval of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) by the European Union on Wednesday. While the trade deal divided opinions among Irish MEPS, farm organisations have also expressed disappointment at the approval of CETA, which will provisionally come into effect from April this year.

Prior to the passing of the trade deal, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) president Patrick Kent warned it would be problematic for Ireland, adding that 5% of Canadian farmers produce nearly half of Canada's food produce.

Reacting to the news, the ICSA president said: "Beef will be the big loser, with 50,000t of ultra–cheap Canadian beef coming into the European market," adding that it will be disastrous for the beef sector.

IFA president Joe Healy also expressed concerns for the beef sector: "Our concern remains that Canadians will target the high–value market and this could have a disproportionate impact on prices in the beef and pigmeat sectors.

Processors and Producers Move On the Organic Beef Demand Boom   
Shan Goodwin, North Queensland Register | February 16, 2017
Australia is in a prime position to make the most of red hot consumer demand for organic beef in the United States and Europe but industry leaders say a close eye has to be keep on ensuring growth is well planned.

JBS Australia, the country's largest beef processor, has just announced it will kick off full production of a certified organic beef program next month, with the US firmly in its sights.

JBS says it is looking to "aggressively grow" production numbers for its organic brand, Acres, and it sees domestic market demand for the niche article as also having significant potential.

Beef Markets ––– Wendy's Love Letter to Beef Producers  
Virginia Harris, DTN The Progressive Farmer (registration) | February 20, 2017
Fresh, never frozen, North American beef. That's Wendy's mantra. The fast–food chain may not be exclusive with beef, but the company sure makes its preference known. DTN had a recent sit–down with vice president of marketing, Carl Loredo to hear about their efforts to prioritize beef.

"The biggest focus for us this year is our fresh North American beef," Loredo said. "There was this realization we have been talking about our fresh beef, since 1969, but we weren't so sure consumers were hearing us." There was a big opportunity to talk about that because it makes a difference in terms of how the hamburgers taste.

"We're gaining ground on two fronts. The first in terms of what consumers know and what we've seen in terms of overall business," he explained. "I think the idea of so fresh it never has to be frozen helps people understand, 'Oh I guess it must be from somewhere around here,'" Loredo said.

He also pointed out Wendy's partnership with NCBA in incorporating the organization's Beef Quality Assurance protocols into the company's supply chain as a way to ensure transparency toward consumers and sustainable beef production.

Indonesia–NZ Trade Beef Reignites
Radio New Zealand | February 21, 2017
The WTO last year upheld complaints from both New Zealand and the United States about Indonesia's restrictions on importing food and animal products.

Trade Minister Todd McClay said he was extremely confident New Zealand has a strong case. "It is very common for WTO rulings of this nature to be appealed and we had expected this action."

The barriers, which include sale restrictions, restrictive licence terms and a requirement to buy domestic products, are estimated to have cost New Zealand's beef industry up to $1 billion in lost trade.

"The government remains committed to opposing any unfair impediments to trade and will continue to fight for the rights of our exporters to fairly access markets in all parts of the world."

Former Prime Minister John Key raised the matter when he visited Indonesia last year and said at the time both countries wanted to resolve the dispute. In the end, however, they were unable to reach a deal.

Tyson Foods Debuts New Vision, Logo
KARK Arkansas Matters | February 21, 2017
A new Vision Has Been Announced for Tyson Foods. The Springdale–based company supplies retail and foodservice customers throughout the United States and about 115 countries.

A news release issued on Tuesday announced that Tyson Foods President and CEO Tom Hayes had outlined his vision for how the company will shape the future of food. Tyson is the market leader in chicken, beef and pork as well as prepared foods, including bacon, breakfast sausage, turkey, lunchmeat, hot dogs, pizza crusts and toppings, tortillas and desserts.
Tyson Foods also is deepening its commitment to a more sustainable food system. The company will innovate to develop new solutions that deliver healthier food, healthier animals, healthier workplaces and a healthier environment. In this commitment, the company sees a long–term opportunity to grow and increase profits sustainably. Tyson Foods' holistic sustainability plan includes commitments.

Tomi Lahren's "Alternative Facts" on COOL  
Bridget Beran, Drovers | February 24, 2017
onservative political commentator Tomi Lahren is speaking out about Country–of–Origin–Labeling again. Lahren, a native South Dakotan, currently hosts Tomi for TheBlaze on line. In her recent "Final Thoughts" commentary, she reiterated her view point that the elimination of COOL is detrimental to the American rancher. But what are the facts behind her statements? Watch :35 video HERE.

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