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


Executive Director's Message

Welcome to the first Connect of 2018; I hope you all had a peaceful Christmas break, and I wish you all the best for the year ahead!

For those who have not heard already, you will read below that Scott Stuart is moving to CBB as of February. Congratulations, Scott! This is certainly an exciting new challenge, and while we will certainly miss your steady and conscientious input, we are very pleased for you in this new role. Thanks for all of your hard work in turning GRSB into the well run and professional organisation it has become under your administrative leadership!

There are exciting developments coming up; following the trend of last year, Josefina our Director for Latin America, is planning to continue making contacts in additional South American countries. Given that we welcomed Colombia as a formal member and both Paraguay and Argentina put their roundtables on a more concrete footing in 2017, I think we have a lot to look forward to.

Elsewhere in the world we will be following up with the work that WWF has been doing in China, with the intention of supporting a national sustainability initiative there. Whether it will be beef only or livestock more generally remains to be seen. We will also be working on equivalence, and with the feedback we have had from roundtables we are working on equivalence reporting.

This will be a system by which our roundtable members, and other initiatives that want to be compared to GRSB, report on the process they have followed and the outputs they are delivering against our principles and criteria. Additionally, that will form the basis of the data and metrics work collecting information on the same criteria globally, so we can demonstrate the impact of the roundtable network. I look forward to hearing from you in the course of the year, particularly any reports you have on sustainability progress.

The first request for feedback for this year went out in December – if you have not yet given your feedback on our antimicrobial stewardship statement, please take the time to do so before February.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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Welcome to the Table…
European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability
Dateline: January 2018 | Constituency: Roundtable
The European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability (ERBS) is a multi–stakeholder initiative, developed by the SAI Platform Beef Working Group (BWG), committed to making the beef supply chain more sustainable. The ERBS envisions a world in which all aspects of the beef value chain are environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable. The ERBS will work to deliver action on beef sustainability priorities through multi–stakeholder engagement.

Environmental Energy Capital
Dateline: January 2018 | Constituency: Consulting
Environmental Energy Capital is a private equity firm who owns and operates industrial sized renewable natural gas plants creating circular solutions for beef processing plants where waste is returned as clean water, compost, gas and CO2.

Global Livestock Game at Tipping Point
Shan Goodwin, North Queensland Register | December 20, 2017
"Few sectors are growing at the rate of livestock in developing countries.

"Few give us so many opportunities to do so much good on so many fronts as the livestock sector in developing countries. We must not waste this unparalleled opportunity to make livestock an equitable, safe and sustainable sector for the coming generations."

The developing–country tropics have much to learn from Australia's livestock technologies and management practices and policies.

There is no shortage of people willing to promote plant based food over meat, and we all understand the importance of getting sufficient protein, energy and other nutrients from a varied diet. I would add that while this means that some of us eat too much meat, there are many more in the world who don't have access to enough animal protein.

Many 'experts' will tell you that it is better for the environment to grow more crops because they have a lower carbon footprint, ignoring the fact that cultivating land depletes soil carbon rather than increasing it, and forgetting that converting grasslands to crops also negatively impacts biodiversity. Just because a piece of land can produce crops, does not mean that it is a "better" use of the land.

Enteric methane emissions are often cited as a major contributor to climate change, and methane is a potent GHG although a short term one as it breaks down in 10–12 years. While we can reduce methane emissions from cattle, and we know that diet and rumen treatments can achieve this, we should also recognise that sources of atmospheric CH4 are many and varied, and include significant contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

Compare that to ploughing grassland to convert it to crops – this immediately releases soil carbon in the form of CO2 and methane. To put the impact of these soil C emissions in perspective, they account for around 1/3 of the cumulative total of anthropogenic emissions. The key to getting Carbon back into soils lies in appropriate management of grazing ruminants, and not in converting more land to crops.

'Kale vs. Cow' Documentary Makes a Case for Meat
Kimberlie Clyma, Meat & Poultry | December 20, 2017
At a time when plant–based foods are popping up on menus around the country and the meat industry is being constantly scrutinized, Diana Rodgers, RD, is on a mission to make a case for meat. The "real food" nutritionist, podcast and blog author of Sustainable Dish and sustainability advocate is developing a documentary film called "Kale vs. Cow: The Case for Better Meat" that aims to examine the ethical, environmental and nutritional conundrums of eating meat.

"'Kale vs. Cow' probes the fundamental moral, environmental and nutritional quandaries we face in raising and eating animals. In the film, we focus our lens on the largest and perhaps most maligned of farmed animals, the cow," according to the film's website. To find out more about the film, "Kale vs. Cow," click HERE.

PDPW Policy Summit Tackles Climate Change, Livestock Biotech
Jan Shepel, Wisconsin State Farmer | December 27, 2017
Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor specializing in air quality at the University of California–Davis spoke with the group via an internet connection from Germany, having had to travel there for a family emergency. For years he has pushed back against animal activists who try to blame animal agriculture for a lion's share of the world's contributions to greenhouse gas emissions – those gases that contribute to climate change.

He noted that these activists argue that emissions from cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are comparable to all transportation sectors – including cars, trucks, airplanes and trains – and suggest that limiting meat consumption will help reduce these emissions and their contributions to climate change. In California, he said, "hardly a day goes by" when dairy production isn't linked to global warming.

Cargill Works to Find Food Sustainability, Security with Two Tech Start–Ups  
Holly Demaree, World Grain | December 19, 2017
Cargill is partnering with Techstars and Ecolab to create the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator with a goal of safer, more secure and sustainable food supply. It will launch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., in 2018.

"We are thrilled to welcome some of the brightest minds in food and ag tech into Cargill and Ecolab's backyards," said Justin Kershaw, chief information officer (CIO) at Cargill. "This Accelerator allows us to invest our time and resources in technology shaping the future of agriculture, and to address some of the greatest challenges facing the food system. At the same time, we see the partnership with Techstars as a way to inject start–up energy inside Cargill, where we are committed to creating a culture that fosters technology innovation through internal expertise and external partnerships."

Less Water Needed to Produce Beef Today  
Lorraine Stevenson, Manitoba Co–operator | December 28, 2017
The study looked at a time period between 1891 and 2011. These newest results reveal a 17 per cent decrease in the amount of water now needed to produce that same one kilogram of beef than 30 years ago.

The improvements come from efficiency gains in feed production, how cattle are raised and from more beef now produced per animal, researchers say.

The research contributes to the efforts of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), including the CRSB's National Beef Sustainability Assessment.

"Water is a precious resource and Canadian beef producers are committed to supporting responsible water use across our production systems," said Bryan Thiessen, manager of Namaka Farms near Strathmore, Alberta and chair of the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC).

A Green Marketing "Wild West": Greenwashing in the Beef Sector
Jonathan Gelbard, Ph.D, Triple Pundit | December 14, 2017
As a grassland scientist and sustainable business advisor, I've been working for years to help define sustainable beef production and develop incentives for ranchers, farmers and other supply chain stakeholders. What I've learned during this journey is that while there are exciting advances occurring in the beef sector, sustainability marketing is a Wild West of (mostly unintentional) greenwash.

The language on beef retailer and producer websites often features vague, unsubstantiated sustainability–related claims. This results in confusion about what these claims mean in terms of measurable, verifiable benefits for the health of ecosystems, people, and livestock.

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Cattlemen's Beef Board Names Scott Stuart to CEO Position  
Drovers Magazine | December 20, 2017
After an extensive search, the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion & Research Board (CBB) has named Scott Stuart of Colorado as the new chief executive officer, effective February 1, 2018. "The beef industry is very complex," notes Brett Morris, CBB chairman from Ninnekah, Oklahoma. "Scott has the background and understanding to bring all those pieces together to help producers meet their goal of promoting beef and getting the most value from their checkoff dollar".

"The outstanding work he has done with National Livestock Producers Association (NLPA) illustrates the type of CEO we were looking for to fulfill the expectations we had. "Scott is a visionary with a strong ability to be very productive. He is thorough and productive, with an immense amount of enthusiasm for this industry. I am most excited about his cowboy background. He will resonate with farmers and ranchers from all over the country, helping them to better understand the benefits of their beef checkoff investments," Morris added.

The Good, the Dry and the Troubling  
Alexis Kienlen, Jennifer Blair, Alberta Express | January 2, 2018
For beef producers, the past year was one when a number of long–running initiatives began to bear fruit.

Those include a new packing plant, a tentative deal on the provincial checkoff, and laying down the foundation for a national sustainable beef program.

The opening of Harmony Beef in February was never going to threaten JBS and Cargill's domination of Alberta's beef–processing sector. But that was never the goal — the plan is to focus mostly on higher–end markets, including Europe.

Rise of Grass–Fed Meat Forces Industry to Shift
Kristen Leigh Painter, Minneapolis Star Tribune | December 18, 2017
"Everything in these big companies is designed for volume and efficiency of scale," said Daniela Ibarra–Howell, chief executive and co–founder of the Savory Institute, a Colorado nonprofit that promotes livestock grazing as a solution to climate change.

"Everything in the regenerative movement is designed for complexity and resilience, so we have totally different metrics of success."

McDonald's in Bethesda Is World's 1st Green–Certified Location for Megabrand  
S.A. Whitehead, QSRweb.com | December 18, 2017
The iconic "golden arches" might have a slight green tinge at the McDonald's River Road location in Bethesda, Maryland, the world's first store in the massive burger chain to achieve sustainability certification by the 27–year–old nonprofit Green Restaurant Association.

This is no easy task; as a level one–certified Green Restaurant, the location had to meet performance standards in 26 environmentally beneficial areas involving the handling and use of food, water, waste, energy, disposables and chemicals and pollution.

Arizona Rancher on Mexico Border Uses Science to Breed Sustainable Cattle  
Shayla Hyde, Cronkite News | December 27, 2017
For decades, ranchers would herd cattle to wherever they could find grass, damaging the vegetation. That led to a 75 percent decline in cattle in the early 1900s. Responsible cattle grazing and handling practices were among innovations that spurred industry growth. Now, about 30 million beef cattle are in the U.S.

According to Sarah Place, senior director of sustainable beef production research at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, using science and data is key to running more sustainable ranches.

By implementing responsible grazing techniques and breeding an efficient herd, ranchers are producing globally the same amount of beef as in 1975 with one–third fewer cattle, Place said.

Think of sustainability as a three–legged stool, Fish said, with an economic leg, an environmental leg and a social leg. To start, the practices ranchers use to breed cattle need to be able to support them financially. They need to be able to spend enough money on feed and other expenses such as water and medicine while still turning a profit.
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China Dangles Carrots at US Beef Industry  
Steve Kay, Canadian Cattlemen | December 20, 2017
China is getting increasingly adept at dangling carrots to keep the U.S. at bay. Its latest carrot was to announce on November 9 that it had signed US$253 billion of business deals with U.S. companies. News reports quickly questioned whether the deals will turn into actual business.

Buried in the massive total was news that JD.com, China's second largest retailer and e–commerce company, had signed agreements to purchase US$200 million of Montana beef over the next three years. Skepticism also greeted this news, for reasons that have bedeviled the re–entry of Canadian and U.S. beef into China.

$2.3m Beef, Leather Value Chain Project Begins  
Chronicle | December 19, 2017
The $2.3 million beef and leather value chain project has started in Matabeleland North province amid hopes the initiative will contribute towards growth of the region and the country's economy. Government partnered the African Development Bank (AfDB) to avail a $2.3 million facility mid–this year for the pilot project whose focus is to provide support to the beef and leather sector in Matabeleland.

"The idea was to implement as soon as the launch was done and I believe things are moving on the ground," said Dr Mike Bimha, Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development Minister.

Meat Trade's Three Wishes – Livestock, Livestock, Livestock  
The Scottish Farmer | December 29, 2017
Scotland's red meat industry has been crying out for more livestock – a simple request which, according to Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers president Frank Clark, has hinted at being met in recent years, but remains frustratingly out of reach as the old year comes to an end and a new one begins.

"Just as house buyers are encouraged to think 'location, location, location' when considering a new investment, our members see a sustained and reliable upturn in livestock numbers as the number one requirement for the future success of Scotland's red meat industry."

Ireland's Beef Exporters Fret Over Brexit Disruption
Arthur Beesley, Irish Financial Times | January 3, 2018
The pledge was kept vague for political reasons. But the lack of precision and differing views about what was agreed have stoked anxiety among Irish food and drink producers about the potential for damage to their €4.4bn export business with the UK.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the beef sector, where the largest groups have operations in the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

"If the final outcome does not deliver regulatory alignment, then we are likely to face additional unnecessary costs and potential barriers to trade," said John Horgan, managing director of Kepak, a leading Irish beef producer with operations in the UK.

Boost for Irish Beef As EU, Japan Conclude World's Largest Free Trade Agreement
Philip Blenkinsop, FARM Ireland | December 11, 2017
The European Union and Japan concluded negotiations on a free trade deal to create the world's largest open economic area, signaling their rejection of the more protectionist stance of US President Donald Trump.

The two parties, who agreed the outlines of a deal in July, confirmed that negotiators had now finished a legal text that would open up trade for economies making up about 30 percent of global output.

"Japan and the EU will join hands and build a free, fair and rule–based economic zone, which will be a model of an economic order in the international community in the 21st century," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

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