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


Executive Director's Message

Last week I was in Zambia, where GRSB jointly hosted a multi–stakeholder meeting with Solidaridad, to explore the possibilities of a regional roundtable in Southern Africa. The event was deliberately kept to a manageable scale, with around thirty participants from 7 countries in the region as well as some from further afield.

What came out of the meeting was that while the issues faced in Southern Africa are undeniably very different from those in some of the other areas where we have national roundtables, there is at least as much need to address them. The producer base in Southern Africa still relies in the main on smallholders for calves; while there are larger commercial producers, smallholders play an important role in the overall system.

Access to resources and financing is a problem for smallholders the world over, and this hinders the development of the sector. Thus the role of a roundtable in Southern Africa would certainly focus on how to ensure that smallholders can participate meaningfully and profitably in the beef value chain, while addressing some of the constraints and the "efficiency gap" that exists between the most and least productive.

By the end of the meeting there was clear consensus and support for the idea of forming a regional roundtable, and volunteers from the countries represented agreed to discuss this with relevant parties in each country. IFAD was also represented at the meeting and requested a concept note be developed for their consideration. IFAD supports initiatives that can demonstrate benefits to the rural poor, and thus could potentially support some of the activities of a regional roundtable. Solidaridad agreed to act as a central coordinating point for the time being until the initiative takes on its own form, and it was agreed that a follow up meeting will be held to take the next steps in early 2018.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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New Research Argues No Need to Double Food Production by 2050  
Food Tank (blog) | August 2017
A team of researchers from major American land–grant universities recently published a study in BioScience challenging the familiar assertion that "to feed the world, we need to double food production by 2050."

The year 2050 is only 33 planting seasons away, as the study's lead author Mitch Hunter stresses. Achieving a 100–percent increase from current production—or doubling it—would mean growing output faster than humans ever have, year over year for those next three decades straight. Reaching that milestone through continued conventional intensification would have dramatically negative environmental and social impacts.

While a body of research from the early 2010s did predict a doubling of demand by 2050, Hunter's study argues that the data now support a more moderate 26 to 68–percent increase. The new research indicates that "roughly historical rates" of production growth should be able to meet this lower demand.

The Grassroots of Sustainability: Beef's Sustainability Advantage  
Bryan Weech, Beef Magazine | August 03, 2017
Alan Savory, who developed the concept of Holistic Planned Grazing, said, "Without agriculture it is not possible to have a city, a stock market, bank, university, a church or army. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization, and the basis for any stable economy." Agriculture plays a key role supporting society, but increasing demand will create challenges.

In the face of pressure to feed a growing world population, a need to utilize resources more wisely and rising consumer expectations, several initiatives have been developed. These include the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the Roundtable for Sustainable Rangelands, and state and national grazing lands coalitions to name a few.

However, mostly overlooked in the sustainability discussion is beef's sustainability advantage. Beef production relies on grazing to produce a product that is nutrient dense, and therefore can be sustainable in ways other food sources can't.

New Natural Nutritional Supplement Could Be Key to 'Climate–Friendly' Beef  
Sustainable Brands | August 14, 2017
The realities of climate change and shifting consumer preferences for responsible, sustainable products have sparked a paradigm shift in the food industry, one that is leading food companies and farmers alike to rethink the way food is produced and manufactured.

The relationship between global warming and beef production in particular has long been a hot button issue for the industry. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global livestock industry is responsible for 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) caused by humans, making it the third–largest contributor of GHGs, after energy and industry

These investors are backing meat that currently costs $18,000 per pound to produce. No doubt that number will come down, and eventually this product will be sold through regular retailers.
Bill Gates, Tyson Foods and Richard Branson Show Interest in Projects that Grow Clean Meat  
Asheley Rice, Health Thoroughfare | August 25, 2017
The population is growing and with it so does the demand in food. Today people in the US are searching for organic products and sustainable food which is also animal–friendly. So how can you get meat without hurting animals but still enjoy the taste and the proteins? Memphis Meats is currently producing meat from animal cells without raising and slaughtering animals. They make beef, chicken and duck. They have raised $17 million from Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson.

Richard Branson has responded in an e–mail to Bloomberg News that he's thrilled to have invested in the Memphis Meats and that he expects that in 30 years killing animals for meat won't be necessary. He believes that the self–producing meat will be clean or plant–based and taste exactly like the traditional meat, but will be healthier.

As Climate Change Gathers Pace, Is Livestock a Problem Or Solution?Busani Bafana, Reuters | August 23, 2017
Even during droughts like the one that swept across Zimbabwe last year, Isaac Siziba and his wife Khumutso had food. Their annual harvest did not consist of water–dependent crops, but of goats.

"Goats are easy to breed and reproduce fast, even in the worst environment, but with good management perform better and give income quickly," Siziba said as he stroked a prized Boer ram in his goat pen in Bolobelo village in Gwanda district.

To Siziba, debate among experts about the sustainability of livestock farming – which is criticised by some for its huge environmental "hoofprint" – seems detached from the practicalities of life in Gwanda.

Almost 10pc of Farmers Use 'Second Chance' in New Quality Assurance Scheme  
Ciaran Moran, Independent.ie | August 22, 2017
Bord Bia has confirmed that some 7,220 farmers have been audited to date for certification in its new Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme.

The new scheme which replaced the BLQAS on April 24 is a close–out based model, which means that you have up to one month to address non–compliances found (if any) during your inspection.

This change gives farmers time to address minor issues without affecting their ability to claim the QA bonus when selling animals in the month after the audit has taken place.

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Sustainability Not Just About the Environment, Says WWF Beef Leader  
Shan Goodwin, Farm Online | August 4, 2017
Recognition that sustainability needs to be economically and socially sound as much as it is about the environment came through loud and clear when a senior staffer from the world's largest conservation organisation spoke at a major beef forum in Northern NSW today.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) global commodity leader beef Ian McConnel told producers at the 2017 Yulgilbar Beef Expo, held at Baryulgil near Grafton, that the path to saving the planet could not be via just one or another of those three things.

"If we don't take producer's' advice on what is sustainable production that allows them to be productive we won't get environmental sustainability," he said.

Count 'Em Up: Lots of Positives For Cattle Sector  
Alexis Kienlen, Alberta Express | August 3, 2017
There are things that beef producers need to look out for in the coming months when it comes to herd health and biosecurity.

"We do know that there are changes in play that will require all medically important antimicrobials to become prescription only," said Rob McNabb, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

Biosecurity doesn't stop with just the animal traffic, either — people are also important components of maintaining proper biosecurity.

Yulgilbar Beef Expo: Staying Ahead of the Game
By James Nason, Beef Central | August 07, 2017
Staying ahead of community expectations, cutting red tape and improving productivity were recurring messages that wove a common thread through several speeches at last Friday's 2017 Yulgilbar Beef Expo.

Research, Education Facility Launched at Hy–Plains Feedyard
Feedstuffs | Aug 11, 2017
The Hy–Plains Education & Research Center located in Montezuma, Kan., will officially open its doors Aug. 23, when customers and invited guests will have the opportunity to hear industry leaders talk about food animal production.

A panel representing all production sectors will discuss "The Stakeholder's Role In Global Food Sustainability." Vice president of the World Wildlife Fund U.S. Food Team, Carlos Saviani, is the lead–off speaker, followed by Luke McKelvie, McDonald's Global Farmer Program manager; Emily Murray, Cargill general manager–McDonald's Beef; Drs. Bob Smith and Trent Fox with Veterinary Research & Consulting Services; Dr. Randall Spare with the Ashland Veterinary Center in Ashland, Kan.; Mark Gardiner, president of Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, and Dan Dorn, ABS Powerline Genetics business manager. A panel discussion will conclude the afternoon program.

Genomic Tools for Commercial Cattle Within Sight  
Annemarie Pedersen, Canadian Cattlemen | August 14, 2017
In an industry where margins can be tight it's often hard to justify the cost for something like a DNA test that seems "nice to have." But what would the return on investment need to be to make DNA a "need to have" item on every farm and ranch?

That is a question researchers across Canada are stewing over as genotyping, genomic breed composition, and other factors affecting the genetic progress of Canada's beef herd gather momentum.

'Sustainable Beef' Coming to a Supermarket Near You  
Reid Southwick, Calgary Sun | August 15, 2017
Steaks sold at your local grocery store could be labelled "sustainable beef" as early as next year as the Canadian beef industry comes to grips with consumer demands to know where their food comes from and how it was grown.

The industry has also come under pressure by campaigns pressing consumers to eat less beef due to environmental and animal welfare concerns. But Alberta producers believe a new sustainable beef program can help them fend off these criticisms.

While "sustainability" is a buzzword that lacks meaning, a beef industry association backed by environmental groups, meat packers, producers and retailers has been defining the rules the industry must meet to source sustainable beef.

The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef expects to finalize the rules by the end of the year, making way for an audit program to track beef cattle from the farm to slaughterhouse.

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State Ban Endangers Zim Beef Industry  
African Independent | August 11, 2017
Zimbabwean authorities have refused to lift a ban on the movement of cattle in the entire southern part of the country, sparking an outrage from farmers, especially among beef producers. The restrictions on the movement of cattle and an indefinite suspension of all public cattle auctions imposed two years ago remain in place as the southern Africa country battles to contain the foot and mouth cattle disease.

Turning a Weed Into a Winner: Sterile Leucaena Research Begins in Western Australia
Matt Brann, ABC Online | August 13, 2017
In what should be a win for cattle producers and the environment, work is underway to develop a sterile form of the legume tree known as leucaena.

Leucaena is regarded as a high–value fodder crop and is grown across a number of areas in Queensland, but is not allowed to be grown on pastoral leases in Western Australia because of its weed status.

The sterile leucaena project in Western Australia has just received $2.3 million in funding from the WA Government, Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company, and the University of Queensland. WA's Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan, said the development of a sterile leucaena could strengthen WA's beef industry and "drive new jobs in the north".

Standard Way to Trace Livestock Needed, Experts Say  
Eric Englert, U.S. News & World Report | Aug. 16, 2017,

Without a standardized, mandatory system for tracing livestock from farm to slaughter, industry experts say U.S. farmers and ranchers face the possibility of diseased cattle getting into the food system and the potential disruption of Chinese export markets.

U.S. beef exports to China are expected to increase by 42 percent over the next 10 years – if the U.S. is willing to meet certain conditions set by China.

Multi–Million Pound Scheme to Improve Livestock in Africa  
Alan Harman, Farmer's Weekly | August 17, 2017

SEBI's objective is to boost the income of livestock farmers by providing evidence–based technologies that offer sustainable solutions to the challenges they face. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As part of the scheme, three programmes have been established to address different challenges.

Gates Foundation Funds African Initiative  
Claire Taylor, The Scottish Farmer | August 27, 2017

In order to improve the sustainability of the region's livestock production, an initiative is now being delivered in three countries – Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria. Over the course of three years, a team of specialists led by Professor Andy Peters of Edinburgh University will receive funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to carry out data collection with a view to providing solutions for the problems facing small scale farming.

NZ Sheep Population Levels Out in 2016/7 After Steep Decline  
Jamie Gray, New Zealand Herald | August 15, 2017

The decades–long decline in New Zealand's sheep population was largely arrested in the year to June 30, while the cattle herd increased by 2.8 per cent to 3.6 million head, Beef and Lamb New Zealand said in its annual stock number survey.

Beef and Lamb NZ said total sheep numbers fell by just 0.9 per cent to 27.34 million in the year, following on from a 5.3 per cent decline in the previous year.

As China's Appetite for Steak Grows, Beijing Ends Its Beef with Imports
New York Times | August 24, 2017

Beef is now the fastest–growing meat in China, outstripping stagnant demand for more widely eaten pork as consumers look to reduce fat in their diets. But supplies are unlikely to keep up with demand given the high cost of raising cattle in China, prompting the government to rethink its import restrictions. After years of lobbying, the United States succeeded in getting the curbs lifted in June, ending a 14–year ban triggered by a case of mad–cow disease in Washington state.

China also gave the greenlight for beef from South Africa and Ireland earlier this year, and on Tuesday said it is considering bringing in beef from Namibia.

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