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


Executive Director's Message

I have spent the last 15 days travelling between China, Canada and Rome. In China and Canada I presented at two different conferences that both looked at the economics of beef production – with many presentations on a wide range of efficiency measures from feed efficiency, GHG emissions, genetics and other aspects of management.

I learned a lot, but there are two things that stick most in my mind.

I visited a number of different beef farms in China, and while they varied between commercial and a state of the art research farms, all of them had invested heavily in infrastructure. In fact, they looked more like intensive dairy set ups than beef; cattle were housed throughout their whole life cycle and there was no grazing land. While they make use of whole crops including a large proportion of corn silage in their diet, as well as other crop residues, it is the first time in my life I have seen a beef system that did not involve grazing at any point; feed is mostly grown on contract by others.

The second thing to strike me was in Saskatoon where I saw economic analyses of beef cattle operations around the world. Canada was one of the very few countries where there was a positive return on investment from the enterprise itself. In most other countries, the main return to net worth is in the form of appreciating asset values. Naturally, I wondered about the Chinese systems, but getting to the bottom of their economics was not simple.

Economics is, of course, one of our pillars of sustainability; what are our members in the value chain doing to ensure price transparency? Is there more that we could be doing?

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Global Warming Presents Rising Cost To Australia's Livestock Industries, Vets Told
Beef Central | June 7, 2017
With average yearly temperatures on the rise, vets attending this week's Australian Veterinary Association annual conference were warned today that parasite–borne infection and diseases in livestock are likely to spread and become more costly. Dr Peter James highlighted the link between climate change and the spread of tropical and subtropical parasites into our southern livestock areas.

"Pests and disease have a huge impact on our livestock industries every year," Dr James said. "Cattle tick, for example, was most recently estimated to cost the northern Australian beef industry $161 million and buffalo flies a further $99 million over a 12–month period.

Kenya, UN Launch Project to Boost Livestock Sector
News Ghana | June 7, 2017
The Africa Sustainable Livestock (ASAL 2050) project is designed to help reposition the sector to generate additional food and income for farmers and the country's GDP. Speaking during the launch in Nairobi, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Willy Bett said the government has invested heavily in addressing the challenges associated with improvement of breeds and production capacities.

"The growth and transformation of the sector offers an opportunity for development in the sub sector by contributing to poverty reduction and food security gains," Bett said.

The Economics of Antibiotic Use
Wes Ishmael, Beef Magazine | June 5, 2017
Forget for a moment the manifold benefits of antibiotics in cattle production — disease treatment, control and prevention — that improve animal wellbeing. Think only of the economics. The value equation seems straightforward enough when it comes to an individual animal or group — the cost of treatment vs. the likely outcome. Buyers routinely project morbidity and mortality levels into pricing, in general terms and sometimes more specifically.

Working with the feedlot data collected as part of the project, BRDC CAP economists used the most current national estimate of 16.2% BRDC prevalence in feedlots. They calculate that 4,071,854 feedlot cattle were likely afflicted with BRDC in 2013. Based on a single treatment cost and lost carcass value, they say a conservative estimate is a $253.97 loss per head. That's an estimated total of $1.034 billion lost by the feedlot industry.

Sustainable Development Goals  
Farming First | Website
This July, the United Nations will meet to track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Farming First is calling attention to the importance of "SDG2: Ending Hunger" with a five–week countdown!

For each of the five weeks ahead of the U.N.'s High Level Political Forum in New York, Farming First will take an in–depth look at one of the five "targets" within SDG2. What are the main themes? How is the agricultural sector making a difference? Our online campaign will culminate at an Agriculture & Food Day being held in New York on 13th July. Take this week's quiz HERE.

Is Intensification of Beef Production Really a Solution to Amazonian Deforestation?
Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay | June 23, 2017
Beef production has become a major driver of tropical deforestation, responsible for as much as 65 percent of rainforest destruction caused by the global agricultural commodities trade in the first decade of the 21st century, according to a 2015 study.

One proposed means of slowing the rate at which forests are being destroyed to create pastureland for cattle in the Amazon and other tropical regions is intensification, or the adoption of technologies and practices that allow for the production of more beef on less land.

"Based on a historical comparison between the US, a fully intensive system, and Brazil, one moving in that direction, we suggest that cattle ranching will intensify as a result of conservation investments (reductions in capital and land subsidies) rather than intensifying in order to produce conservation results," the researchers write in the article.

Comfortable Cattle Provide Better Quality Beef, More Profit  
Drovers | June 23, 2017 
Attendees at a recent cattle stewardship conference in northwest Iowa heard a common, simple message from speakers that when taken to heart can improve a farm's economic bottom line: comfortable cattle perform better and consequently, are more profitable.

Temple Grandin, nationally noted animal behavior specialist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, pointed out how small changes in cattle handling systems can dramatically improve the flow of cattle through a chute system.

Dean Fish, certified trainer for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, told the more than 140 participants that working cattle slowly is actually working cattle quickly. In other words, excited cattle take longer to move, sort and load. As part of his presentation, Fish demonstrated that cattle have a point of balance, and knowing that is key to understanding whether the animal will move forward, stop or turn.

Program organizer Beth Doran said cattle well–being was a major focus of the conference, with six breakout sessions featuring separate topics: dealing with pain management, designing comfortable cattle facilities, low–stress weaning, processing cattle, managing heat stress and performing a feedlot assessment.

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Cargill Is Fully Committed to Its Efforts to Address Climate Change, Despite U.S. Exiting Paris Climate Agreement
JPR Newswire | June 1, 2017
Despite today's decision by the United States to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennan said Cargill remains fully committed to address climate change in its supply chains around the world.

"It is extremely disappointing. Exiting international accords like the Paris Agreement will negatively impact trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment, and relationships amongst the world community. And it positions the U.S. as an outlier on this important issue," said MacLennan. "It would have resulted in U.S. economic growth and job creation."

MacLennan added, "That said, we have no intention of backing away from our efforts to address climate change in the food and agriculture supply chains around the world and in fact this will inspire us to work even harder. Caring about sustainability of the planet is not only the right thing to do for people and the environment, it is also good business."

Restaurant Brands International Inc. Releases its Inaugural Sustainability Report  
Beef Central | June 8, 2017
Canada NewsWire | June 22, 2017
Today, Restaurant Brands International Inc. (RBI) released its 2016 Sustainability Report (PDF) outlining its ongoing commitments and actions to support the people, places and communities it serves, every day. The Report explores how RBI is working with its global Restaurant Owners, Vendors and stakeholders, across the BURGER KING® Brand and Tim Hortons® Brand*, to implement and execute sustainable practices that promote positive change.

"As RBI grows our brands around the world, we are more focused than ever on strengthening our sustainability efforts and progressing towards the goals set out in our Sustainability Framework last year," said Daniel Schwartz, CEO of RBI. "Just as we will always do what's right for our Guests – we are committed to doing what's right, and responsible, across our business."

Texas Tech University Announces Two Major Gifts to Agricultural College
High Plains Journal | June 6, 2017
Texas Tech announced two significant philanthropic investments from Cargill and Teys Australia to support research in meat science.

Cargill will donate $750,000 to establish the Cargill Endowed Professorship in Sustainable Meat Science while Teys Australia, a partnership between the Teys family and Cargill, is making a $2 million gift to support research in meat science at Texas Tech. Both gifts represent a strategic and significant investment in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

"We are grateful for the investment Cargill and Teys Australia have made to help Texas Tech University provide world–class expertise ensuring a plentiful and reliable food source," Chancellor Robert L. Duncan said. "Philanthropy is how we advance higher education. The generosity of these gifts allows us to continue serving as global leaders in animal and food sciences."

Canadian Beef Industry Conference
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Newsletter | June 23, 2017
Registration is now open for the second annual Canadian Beef Industry Conference, which is August 15 to 17 in Calgary. Tracy Herbert, extension and communications director for the Beef Cattle Research Council, discusses one of the components of the conference—the Bov–Innovations sessions. Download to listen to the 1:44 mp3 Audio Interview HERE.

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Lots of Dynamics in Global Beef Export Markets  
Derrell S. Peel, Drovers | June 6, 2017
It's a unique time in global beef markets with a wide range of issues providing challenges and opportunities among many of the major beef exporting countries. USDA–FAS (Foreign Agricultural Service) estimates published in April project the top five beef exporting countries in 2017, in order, as India, Brazil, Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand. These five countries were projected to export a total of 6.83 million metric tons of beef, about 71 percent of the total among major world beef exporters. Recent and ongoing developments may modify these forecasts.

Beef exports from India have grown sharply in the past eight years. However, the beef industry in India is mostly operated by Muslim companies which are increasingly in conflict with the Hindu dominated federal government and also in some Indian states. A recent federal ban on trade of cattle for slaughter has raised concerns about India's ability to maintain supplies of beef for export in 2017.

Brazil, the number two beef exporting country, is projected to export 1.80 million metric tons in 2017. However, Brazil has been rocked recently by several scandals including a food safety bribery scandal involving several meat companies and a financial and political bribery scandal involving JBS, the world's largest meat company. It is not clear how much impact these scandals might have on total beef exports from Brazil in in 2017 but any impact will likely be negative.

To Protest Against Modi, These Indians Are Cooking Beef in Public  
Vidhi Doshi,Washington Post | June 6, 2017
In this sleepy, palm–fringed city in southern India, eating beef has become a political act. On May 23, the Indian government introduced new anti–animal–cruelty rules, restricting the sale of cattle in markets. The move was widely interpreted as an attempt to close in on the country's thriving beef industry, in line with right–wing Hindu ideology, according to which the cow is considered holy.

Some think the new rules are too draconian. For the past week here in the southern state of Kerala, people have gathered with pots and pans and firewood to cook beef and share it with strangers in the streets, a convivial form of protest. Many Hindus, who usually avoid cooking or eating beef, have joined the feasts.

MLA Reveals the Four Megatrends Impacting Our Beef Industry  
Martin Bunyard, Queensland Country Life | June 8, 2017

The latest consumer research has identified four major red meat consumer megatrends influencing our beef industry.

Meat and Livestock Australia's chief marketing and communication officer Lisa Sharp said demand for Australian beef is driven by a whole range of variables.

"They are economic variables, consumer preferences and choices, plus other demographic changes," Ms Sharp said.

"All of these variables combine can lead to particular megatrends and they are trends common across most markets.

Rinehart Purchases Maydan Feedlot in Queensland
Rural Weekly | June 16, 2017
Hancock Prospecting has announced it's purchased Maydan feedlot in Queensland.

The feedlot, located in Warwick, accommodates both short–term and long–term custom feeding and is licensed to carry 8,000 standard cattle units, specializing in providing feeding strategies for premium beef producers.

It has demonstrated a consistent ability to produce premium high grade beef, most recently assisting several of its customers in producing award winning beef products.

Speaking after the transaction HPPL Chairperson Gina Rinehart said the Maydan acquisition continues the company's pursuit of integrated investments in the cattle industry focused on optimizing the quality of our beef.

"We are pleased to invest in regional Australia and regional jobs", Mrs Rinehart said.

US Bans Imports of Brazilian Beef Over Safety Concerns
Ivana Kottasová, CNN Money | June 23, 2017
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the immediate suspension of fresh beef imports from the South American country on Thursday after inspections uncovered public health concerns, unsanitary conditions and animal health issues.

The agency said the ban will remain in place until Brazil "takes corrective action."

Brazil is the fifth biggest supplier of beef to the U.S., ranking behind only Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. It has sent nearly 50 million pounds of beef to the U.S. so far this year.

"Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers," Sonny Perdue, the secretary of agriculture, said in a statement. The Brazilian Association of Beef Industry said in a statement that "corrective actions to adapt production processes are already being taken."

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