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


Executive Director's Message

I'd like to thank all the executive committee, board and other GRSB members who came to Chicago last Thursday for our board meeting. I think it was a constructive meeting, and I particularly appreciated hearing from all of the national / regional roundtables about all of the progress that is being made around the world.

With the piloting of our reporting framework this year, and the work that the data and metrics group will do, I think the network as a whole will have some excellent work to showcase at the Global Conference on Sustainable Beef in Kilkenny this October.

It's clear that as the national and regional roundtables take on the real on the ground work in the coming years, GRSB will evolve to provide a more supporting, sharing and convening role; I think that is as it should be for a network such as ours, and this is why we have also established a working group to look at potential models to support that collaboration and allow the full range of members into both the global and national groups as time and capacity allows.

We took the opportunity while in Chicago to discuss the antimicrobial stewardship statement second draft which is now ready to go out to all members for the second thirty–day comment period. If you submitted comments to the first draft, we will be sending replies explaining the changes made.

Given the range of interests, it feels as though the second draft has addressed many of the concerns about the earlier version, though clearly not all edits can be accommodated.

We look forward to receiving your comments on this version. Following that, further edits will be made if there is strong consensus in any particular area, and the final version will then be reviewed by the board and put to membership vote. We look forward to receiving your comments on this version; thank you all for your constructive input!

The other exciting news to pass on from the board meeting was that not only did we have the Colombian and European roundtables at the meeting, but also that the Paraguayan roundtable has been admitted as a preliminary roundtable member; thus they can participate in all of our meetings as they prepare to become a full member.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
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US Beef Industry Has Made Long Strides in Reducing Its Carbon Footprint  
Samantha Athey, Farm Talk | February 27, 2018
However, companies are creating — and marketing — meat grown in a laboratory..

These companies are using a marketing strategy centered around the lab–grown meat being environmentally friendly, said Sara Place, director of sustainable beef production research for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, at the 49th annual Beef Cattlemen's Conference in Monett, Missouri. They are saying it's better from a sustainability standpoint..

Activist groups like to throw out the word "sustainable" and say agriculture needs to do more to become more sustainable but beef production already is, Place said.

"We're the original plant–based meat," she continued, explaining ranchers produce billions of servings of high quality protein each year using "amazing technology" — cattle — that harvests plants to produce meat.

"Meat from plants is called beef," she reiterated.

There are lots of ways of reducing the carbon footprint of beef production, many of which are beneficial in other ways, including efficiency of production. Therefore, rather than denying that it is something that we should care about, we should be encouraging the adoption of feasible means of reducing carbon footprint that bring benefits to producers – this is one area in which our non–producer members who have made carbon reduction commitments can involve themselves in developing tools that are of direct benefit to producers, as well as meeting their own needs.
Beef on the Road to Carbon Neutral Status  
Shan Goodwin, North Queensland Register | February 18, 2018
Beef's bid to be carbon neutral by 2030 is very much about tackling fake meat head on. And it is being embraced by both industry and the wider audience watching livestock production. This from Meat and Livestock Australia's managing director Richard Norton, who was quizzed during a senate estimates hearing in Canberra this week on what progress was being made on the ambitious target.

The big red meat body announced at its annual general meeting in November last year that it would push for the industry to meet that goal, saying it would put Australia head and shoulders above its competitors and turn environmental criticism of the industry on its head.

Since then, MLA and the CSIRO have done work around establishing the baselines of where carbon from the livestock sector now sits.

We know that there are many benefits of AMP grazing systems; we should consider them as an important element of sustainable beef production (see a variety of papers HERE), but I would certainly add that they are not the only element, and nor should we consider other systems, particularly finishing systems, as being in direct opposition to them. All cattle start on grass, while finishing systems using crop by products, distillers grains and corn all play an important role in both providing us animal protein while reducing the total area required to produce, recycle nutrients that are otherwise difficult to recycle, and buffer grain markets.
Cattle Aren't Actually Killing the Planet, Says Vegetarian Rancher  
Jennifer Blair, Alberta Farmer Express | March 2, 2018
We're told over and over again that cattle are bad for the environment and, therefore, everybody should eat less beef," said Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production.

"We're being bombarded with this message every day, but this is an issue that has become dramatically oversimplified. The facts are often lost in the conversation."

The 'beef is bad for the planet' message came to the forefront about a decade ago — but it didn't arise out of the work of environmentalists or scientists, said Hahn Niman. Rather, it came from animal rights activists who found their 'meat is murder' message wasn't persuading meat eaters to become vegetarians, she told attendees at Organic Alberta's annual conference earlier this month.

The truth is a little more complicated.

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During the board meeting in Chicago I talked about  the need for all our members to have 'skin in the game'; an expression I first learned from Townsend Bailey. In terms of working with ranchers, having skin in the game is exactly what Mike Williams is talking about in the quote in this article. All of our members, wherever they may be in the chain, direct or indirect, are capable of engaging with other chain actors to help things happen in a constructive way. Checking boxes might protect a company's reputation to some extent, but it will not build trust with the people being told to check them in anything like the way that having skin in the game by building collaborative solutions will.
Food Trust Tactics from McDonald's
Nate Birt, Ag Web | February 22, 2018
Townsend Bailey, director of U.S. supply chain sustainability for McDonald's shares a quote from Mike Williams, a southern California cow–calf operator and a representative to the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef: "If you want to work with me to develop tools that will help me and other ranchers and farmers improve our land, I'm all in. If you want me to check boxes, you'd better get out your checkbook." Bailey notes many producers would prefer to collaborate in that way.

Sheep and Beef Sector Welcomes Signing of CPTPP
News Release: Beef and Lamb NZ, Scoop | March 8, 2017
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) welcome the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans–Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Minister for Trade and Export Growth Hon David Parker signed the CPTPP in Chile today, alongside representatives of the 10 other member countries Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

B+LNZ Chief Executive Sam McIvor says the sector will save $63* million in tariffs once the trade agreement is fully implemented.

Cargill: Consumers Weigh in on Feed Supplement Use  
Aerin Einstein–Curtis, Feed Navigator | February 23, 2018
The Feed4Thought survey polled more than 1,000 people in the US during December of 2017, said Cargill.

Of the millennials who responded to the survey, 62% said they wanted the animals raised to provide protein products to use the same health supplements that are used in humans, the company said. These would include probiotics, plant extracts and essential oils.

Overall, consumers polled in the survey were three times more likely to pick a protein if they knew the animal that produced it was fed a natural feed additive used to improve the animal's digestive health or well–being, the company said.

Cargill was interested in consumer thoughts on the use of feed additives because those preferences are having an effect on the market, said Warta. "Retailers and consumer product companies are making adjustments to the type of products they offer, and about the information, they are providing about how protein is raised," he added.

There have been a couple of cases recently where negative news about GRSB has been surfacing, and while the below is not particularly negative, it's clear that the interview with Dennis made a difference to the light in which we were portrayed. In cases where we see reporting that suggests that we are doing things that we are not doing, it is always beneficial to reach out to the authors to talk about the concerns they have heard, and have a discussion about the ways in which we and the national roundtables do work. To date we have found this to be a positive way of engaging with journalists, and we will continue to do so where possible.
Matt Thompson Story: American Cattle Feeder Fears Power of Sustainability Groups
Carrie Stadheim, Tri–State Livestock News | March 2, 2018
Although Matt Thompson had followed the protocol and had remained in good graces with the bureaucratic overseers up to this point, when Thompson spoke out, he believes a target was put on his back, and the very license he was advised to get was ultimately used against them. "Other producers that didn't have a license, didn't have any problem.

"It became personal against us only because I was trying to oppose what they were trying to do – establishing a carbon tax to control production by declaring carbon for whoever they liked and didn't like. I'm an opponent of centralized control. I like freedom. I was vocal about that and that's why they went after our operation. The same thing will happen here. I think it's hard for people to realize that until you live through it, they do take away your presumption of innocence and freedom of speech. That's the goal of the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef."

The Thompsons' feeding permit was reduced to 6,000, and he believes they continued to look for reasons to shut him down.

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This article is from India, so it's not easy to tell if there is a genuine trend towards vegetarian eating in China, or simply wishful thinking on the part of a vegetarian reporter. While increased affluence does generally lead to higher animal protein consumption, it also brings more variety to diets in general, and that includes vegetarian options.
More Chinese Turning Vegetarian
K J M Varma, BusinessWorld | February 25, 2018
China – the world's largest market for beef, pork and poultry – is steadily growing wary of meat as health–conscious Chinese are taking to a vegetarian diet that has sparked mushrooming of vegan restaurants in the world's most populous country.

China's restaurant industry over the past few years is reporting growing number of entrepreneurs looking to capitalise on the popularity of healthy eating, which usually means a meatless, organic and environmentally–friendly diet.

The niche market of vegetarian and vegan eateries has never been more competitive, a recent report from various cities compiled by the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post said.

Australia Urged to Follow Ireland's Lead in Driving Beef Genetic Gain  
By James Nason, BEEF Central | February 26, 2018
Australia's beef cattle industry has been urged to follow Ireland's lead to accelerate its rate of genetic gain.

Ireland's beef and dairy cattle industries have achieved impressive rates of genetic gain over the past 20 years through a national system that rewards producers financially for recording individual animal data on a national database, and for using the bulls with the best performing genetics.

While RFID can certainly help in the event of disease outbreaks, it's important to protect confidential information. During our board meeting, I was quite surprised at the level of data that could be accessed in Brazil to track cattle movements from tier 1 properties, and link that to deforestation. What did concern me in that case, was that the "publicly available data" was not originally intended for the purpose to which it was being put and contained personal information that I know in many other countries would be confidential. Also, the way in which it was made public presumably never foresaw the potential to "mine" it with digital technology, which again concerned me.
Cattle Industry to Weigh in on RFID in Washington State
Claire Swedberg, RFID Journal | February 29, 2018
Washington State has already implemented a metal tag identification program for several years, but the state—along with the other 49 states throughout the United States—are expected to move toward an electronic identification program by 2020.

As of 2016, Washington ranchers had 1.5 million cattle (both beef and dairy) producing $1 billion in milk and $704 million in beef. Traditionally, the cattle have been tracked via paperwork, which has its limits when it comes to identifying every animal throughout every event or transaction, such as sale at auction or inoculation by a state veterinarian.

"I think some in the livestock industry recognize the value of that," Castro says, "while others have concerns."

This is quite an interesting overview looking at some of the "noise" involved in the consumer facing sustainability issues around meat consumption by a former Bonsucro president.
Screening Out the Noise
Jonkingsman, Commodity Conversations | March 9, 2019
The Guardian also published an opinion piece this week entitled, "Why what we eat is crucial to the climate change question", arguing that "our food – from what we eat to how it is grown – accounts for more carbon emissions than transport…and roughly the same as the production of electricity and heat".

If you are getting the stage where you no longer know who to believe or what to eat, New Food Economy last week followed up on an earlier opinion piece arguing that pretty much all nutrition studies are flawed. They argue that food studies tend to be small and speculative; the effects of any given food or food component tend to be small; research designs are often faulty; and researcher bias is somewhere between rife and universal.

There is also a problem with the data. Most studies are conducted by asking people what they eat—and most people lie. All this presents a problem for health professionals looking to reduce obesity and its associated costs.

The fundamental reality is that people are eating too much and moving too little. The market is slowly making its way in that direction.

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