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


Executive Director's Message

In the two weeks since the last edition of Connect, both Australia and Ireland have made significant announcements in relation to beef sustainability. Australia brought out the Beef Sustainability Framework, and Ireland announced the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme. Not surprisingly for two very different countries with physically and legislatively different environments, there are considerable differences between the systems proposed.

However, the common ground is also considerable – the industry in each country has put sustainability front and centre in their list of priorities and they both define this as continuous improvement for people, animals and the environment.

It is very rewarding to see the increasing interest in sustainable beef over time from both producer and consumer countries. In addition to the two initiatives named above, Beef and Lamb New Zealand also have a sustainability scheme, and these three national initiatives are in addition to our own expanding group of roundtables in North America, South America and Europe.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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If you have not yet had the chance to read the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, have a look at it HERE.

Red Meat Advisory Council Launches First Framework to Measure and Report Sustainability in Beef Sector
Courtney Fowler, ABC Online | April 6, 2017
The Red Meat Advisory Council has released its first beef sustainability framework today, which aims to value–add billions to the sector.

The framework has been developed by the Sustainability Steering Group, following a year of consultation with industry, regulators and the community. Independent chairman Don Mackay said the framework listed 23 priority areas including animal well being, profitability, market access, and occupational health and safety. Listen to 4:37 audio interview HERE.

Bord Bias New Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme  
Bord Bia | April 11, 2017
Bord Bia today launched the new Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS) which sets out the agreed standards for the production and certification of Irish beef and lamb. The new scheme was designed in collaboration with the sector stakeholders to meet the demands of global food buyers for verifiable proof of Ireland`s sustainability claims. The scheme is accredited to the International Standard for Product Certification ISO 17065 by the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB), who approved the scheme in recent days.

Bord Bia's Chief Executive, Tara McCarthy thanked the Technical Advisory Committee that worked on the scheme over the past 18 months and highlighted the value of the new standard.

Healthy Soil Is the Real Key to Feeding the World
David R. Montgomery, The Conversation, University of Washington | April 3, 2017
One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn't necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical–free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six–month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, "Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life," the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world's agricultural soils.

Silvopasture Offers a Sustainable Approach for Growing Forests and Livestock  
Samantha Nash, WisContext | April 4, 2017
Silvopasture is the practice of planting feed and grazing animals like cows, sheep or poultry in managed forest lands. It's a type of agroforestry that helps landowners provide livestock sheltered space, preserve soil quality and generate income from surplus forage and harvested trees.

Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time, host Veronica Rueckert interviewed Diane Mayerfeld, a University of Wisconsin–Extension specialist in sustainable agriculture, about the potential rewards and challenges of engaging in silvopasture, and the barriers and possible pitfalls to getting started. Listen to 8:40 audio interview HERE.

Steering Towards Grazing  
Farms.com | March 30, 2017
It makes sense that a 1,200 pound Angus cow would place quite a lot of pressure on the ground on which it walks. But a new study shows that even these heavy beasts can't do much to compact common soils –– if they're grazed responsibly.

The study is unique in its 16–year span. Researchers wanted to know whether grazing cattle on corn stubble left in the field in fall and spring would significantly affect the quality of the soil.

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New Cattle Ranching Practices Could Turn the Tide of Deforestation in the Amazon
WWF Global
For a business that cares about its reputation and impact on the planet, not buying beef from the Amazon seems like a no–brainer. Beef production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in the region, and no company wants to be associated with the destruction of the world's most precious rainforest.

That was the position taken for many years by McDonald's, one of the world's largest beef buyers. But during the Rio Olympics in 2016, the company's developmental franchisee in Latin America, Arcos Dorados, announced progress and new innovations, which allowed beef to be sourced from the Amazon without contributing to deforestation.

Instead of simply avoiding the huge number of cattle ranchers in the region, Arcos Dorados became a partner in a project called Novo Campo ("new land") which aims to make beef production more sustainable.

Whangara Hosts McDonalds: Global Meat Buying Team from Fast Food Chain Drops In
Murray Robertson, Gisborne Herald | April 5, 2017
Whangara Farms hosted their second set of international visitors in a week on Sunday when they showed the global meat buying team from fast food chain McDonalds around the property.

This followed the visit last week by the Kristensen family from Danish footwear company Glerups.

"McDonald's has partnered with Beef and Lamb New Zealand and Silver Fern Farms (SFF) to initiate a Sustainable Beef integration project which is focused on encouraging sustainable production practices," SFF spokesman Greg McSkimming said.

Trade Tops List of Urgent Issues for Beef Industry, NCBA President Craig Uden  
Lori Potter, Kearney Hub | April 9, 2017
Trade, the naming of a new agriculture secretary, a new farm bill and government regulations are just a few of the issues being watched closely by ag industry leaders, including National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Craig Uden of Johnson Lake, a Darr Feedlot partner.

"We were disappointed that TPP was discontinued right off the bat with no other plan ready," Uden said, adding that NCBA will work with federal officials to ensure the critical bilateral trade agreements are reached. Equally important is maintaining benefits from the North American Free Trade Agreement. "That represents a zero tariff on beef sold in Canada and Mexico, which combine for more than 30 percent of exports," Uden said.

Those zero tariffs compare with a 38.5 percent tariff to export beef to Japan, the other top three beef export market. "NAFTA has been a huge win for all of agriculture," Uden said.

Beef Checkoff Launches Food Waste Challenge
PR Newswire, National Cattlemen's Beef Association | April 10, 2017
In recognition of Earth Day later this month, the Beef Checkoff is challenging consumers to #WasteLess with our 30 Day Food Waste Challenge. Although beef is one of the least wasted commodities produced in the U.S., at around 20 percent of edible product going to waste, consumers could help improve beef sustainability by 10 percent simply cutting that waste in half.

The challenge encourages Americans to raise awareness and introduce simple changes to fight food waste in their daily routine. People who sign up for the Food Waste Challenge will be given shopping tips and food prep strategies to help reduce food waste in their households. They are also encouraged to post on social media using #WasteLess to encourage others to join the challenge.

Food waste is a continuing problem in the U.S. According to World Food Day, 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in North America is wasted. Reducing food waste is one of the most impactful steps anyone can take to reduce their impact on the environment.

Defining Sustainability
Victoria G. Myers, DTN The Progressive Farmer | April 10, 2017
"Producer–focused" and "unbiased" is how Chad Ellis says The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will approach a new two–year research project build around testing metrics established by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and exploring scalable solutions that might be applicable to beef production across the U.S.

Ellis, manager for the Foundation's Center for Land Stewardship, is spearheading this work with the USRSB. He said they will follow six indicators the USRSB has set, collecting data throughout the full value chain for beef. Those six indicators are:(1) Animal Health and Well–Being; (2) Efficiency and Yield; (3) Water Resources; (4) Land Resources; (5) Air and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; and (6) Worker Safety and Well–Being.

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Welcome to Soil Master School  
Ficke Cattle Company and Green Acres Cover Crops are excited to welcome people interested in improving their farm and ranch out to the Soil Master School©. We want to thank our partners at Prairie Creek Seed (PCS), for coming on board for this event. Karl Dallefeld – President of PCS and Cody Nelson – Business Development Manager/Western Region for PCS will be joining us as well. The PCS team "gets it," they share our passion and drive to improve soil and water quality, all while serving farmers and ranchers and building rural communities. Watch 1:08 Video Cover Crop Case Study HERE.

MDA Launches New Cropland Grazing Exchange
KXRA Radio Voice of Alexandria, ST. PAUL, Minn | March 30, 2017
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has just launched the Cropland Grazing Exchange. The new online tool seeks to connect crop farmers and livestock farmers to improve soil health.

Livestock are an integral part of achieving optimal soil health. They convert forages to more available forms of nutrients and help break up residue material and stimulate soil microbial activity. As crop production has become more specialized, the lack of livestock impact has become evident in declining soil health.

Sustainably Managed Livestock Are Essential to Livelihoods and Healthy Agro–Ecosystems  
Livestock Global Alliance Video | March 2017
Farm animals are critical for human development. A small daily amount of meat, milk and eggs can contribute greatly to a healthy diet. Livestock contribute up to 60% of agricultural GDP in developing nations. They provide livelihoods for some 1.3 billion people.Livestock can help to maintain healthy ecosystems and regenerate degraded land. They provide natural fertiliser and renewable energy to help manage land sustainably. Watch 1:21 Video 'Sustainable Livestock, Sustainable Lives' HERE.

Beef Producers Call for Caution on BMC Privatization  
MMEGI Online | April 4, 2017
The Government has communicated and consulted key stakeholders concerning the proposal to sell the Francistown abattoir, to invite a strategic equity partner on the Lobatse abattoir and to retain the Maun plant as a buffer against the FMD, as well as to create a framework to regulate the liberalised cattle industry.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) submitted a proposal to Cabinet in September 2016, setting out how Government should go about privatising BMC. Cabinet directed that consultations should be held with the farmers before any decision can be taken on the suggestions made by MOA.

BNBPU had a briefing meeting on February 26, 2017 with the Minister, Patrick Ralotsia. He informed BNBPU that Government is in the process of making a decision to privatise the Francistown and Lobatse abattoirs as Government can no longer continue to subsidise the commercial operations of BMC. Representatives of the BNBPU executive have attended all the nationwide briefing meetings of the Minister with different farmer associations to get the reactions of the farmers.

Tariffs on Chilled Beef Exports to China Reduced
Ellen Barry & Johanna Baker–Dowdell, Tasmania Examiner | April 5, 2017
The Australian and Chinese governments have signed an agreement reducing tariffs on chilled beef exports. The Tasmanian meat industry welcomed the reduction in tariffs for chilled beef exports to China as it promises to increase the sector's profitability on a global scale.

Under this new agreement, the number of abattoirs registered to export red meat and offal to China will increase, enabling the sector to capitalise on demand for fresh high–quality Australian red meat and benefit from the ability to export these higher–margin products.

Be Careful of Additional Regulatory Burden, Processors Warn
By Jon Condon, BEEF Central | April 6, 2017
The red meat supply chain must be careful not to add additional regulatory burden in responding to recommendations raised in the ACCC's Cattle and Beef Market Study, red meat processors said this week.

While generally in support of many of the findings contained within ACCC's 15 recommendations put forward in its Cattle and Beef Market Study, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation takes issue with the several areas of the report, seen as needed to address strategic risks in the industry.

China Continues to Import Beef in By the Boat Load  
Ciaran Moran, Irish Independent | April 7, 2017
China's imports of beef are continuing to soar with plenty of opportunity for exporters to find business, according to Conor O'Sullivan, Trade Marketing Specialist in Bord Bia's Shanghai Office.

He says for years, China's beef industry was largely self–sufficient and closed off to foreign producers.

But with rising incomes and urbanisation, O'Sullivan says Chinese consumers' appetite for beef is growing fast – faster than any other animal protein – and China's producers cannot keep up.

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