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


Executive Director's Message

Thank you to all members who responded to the first draft of our antimicrobial stewardship statement. All of the organisations that submitted comments should now have received a response to them, and an explanation of how they were handled in the second draft. It is currently open for comment until close of business on Friday 13th April. If you have not yet accessed it, please view it here.

Naturally enough, some members have asked why antimicrobial stewardship has been selected for particular attention and the formulation of a statement among the various issues and challenges that exist to beef sustainability.

The answer is that this has been a consistent concern among our members – while it has not been easy to find consensus, it is clear that our consumer facing members are asked more regularly about this issue than others, and that concern has persisted over the years. It was a major topic of concern among consumers when we released our principles and criteria for public comment in 2014 and still is.

Many organisations are working on this, and some members have suggested that our own statement does not go as far as some regions do. However, what is clear is that in order to lead in sustainability, we have to address this issue. While we have tried to align ourselves with others so as not to create duplication of effort, it should be emphasised that our statement represents a considerable improvement on the status quo in many countries which cannot yet "ensure appropriate conditions for the import, manufacturing, distribution and use of veterinary medicinal products, including antimicrobial agents as a result, these products circulate freely, like ordinary goods, and are often falsified or substandard. This inappropriate use of antimicrobial products creates conditions of high risk for the development and spread of resistance"(OIE).

Our statement represents the aspirations of the global beef industry to address this issue, even where individual countries have not yet been able to do so.

We look forward to your comments on the second draft; please submit them to me, or as before to comments@grsbeef.org


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
Welcome to the Table...
McFaddin Enterprises

Dateline: March 2018| Constituency: Producer
Located in Victoria, Texas, Bob McCan of McFaddin Enterprises is a fifth–generation cow–calf producer.

Mesa Paraguaya de Carne Sostenible
Dateline: March 2018| Constituency: Roundtable
The Paraguayan Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is a meeting place for all the members of the beef value chain, who voluntarily want to join, in order to form a non–profit entity, for the promotion of sustainable beef in the Republic of Paraguay.
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Feed Supplement Drops Methane By 58%
All About Feed | March 9, 2018
Mette Olaf Nielsen, Professor in Sustainable Animal Nutrition, and Hanne H. Hansen, Associate Professor of Cattle Production, Department of Veterinary Clinical and Animal Sciences at Copenhagen University, commented: "A 58% methane reduction was achieved when we added the feed supplement to a typical (Danish) dairy ration of maize silage and soybean cake in our in–vitro test.

This is an impressive and exciting result. We will continue our studies with this feed supplement to verify the effects in real cows under farm conditions as part of our ongoing research efforts to find ways to ensure drastic reductions in methane emission and de–criminalise cows in the climate debate. The in–vitro test showed clearly that this feed supplement increased early fermentation and did not affect feed degradability whilst reducing methane."

I particularly appreciate the quote from Professor Riley at the end of this article about vegan diets being the definition of "a first world problem". I have said for many years that demand increases as well as supply increases are coming from developing countries, where vast numbers of people still have diets deficient in high quality proteins.
Scientists on Brink of Overcoming Livestock Diseases Through Gene Editing
Hannah Devlin, The Guardian | March 17, 2018
Farming is poised for a gene editing revolution that could overcome some of the world's most serious livestock diseases, the UK's top animal scientist has said.

Prof Eleanor Riley, director of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, said new techniques will soon allow breeders to genetically engineer disease resilience and, in some cases, immunity into pedigree animals, saving farmers millions of pounds a year.

"Genes can be modified to massively increase resistance and resilience to infection," she said. "The health and welfare benefits of this could be enormous."

The Fungus That Keeps On Giving
Ann Newport, Beef Producer | March 17, 2018
Beef and fungi go together long before they can be steak and mushrooms on a plate. If truth be told, efficient beef production is utterly dependent on an organism known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) because 90% or more of all forage plants can't really survive, and certainly cannot thrive, without this curious symbiotic organism. Put simply, your grass needs fungus.

The world does need grazers for many reasons; to sustain grasslands, maintain carbon flows, provide high value food from marginal areas. I would add one word to the title though: "A world without sustainable beef is just not sustainable", because unfortunately bad management can exist in any industry.
A World Without Beef Is Just Not Sustainable
Amanda Radke, Beef Magazine | March 18, 2018
Sara Place, Ph.D., NCBA senior director writes, "Let's be clear, a healthy and sustainable food system depends on having both plants and animals. Researchers at USDA's Agricultural Research Service and Virginia Tech just published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences confirming this socially debated fact. The study examined what our world would look like without animal agriculture in the U.S. The bottom line? We'd reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2.6%, and 0.36% globally — but we'd also upset our balanced food ecosystem and lack essential dietary nutrients to feed all Americans."

I've mentioned this research before in Connect, but this a useful summary.
Environmentally Friendly Cattle Production (Really)
Michigan State University, Science Daily | March 19, 2018
Three hundred years ago, enormous herds of bison, antelope and elk roamed North America, and the land was pristine and the water clean.

However, today when cattle congregate, they're often cast as the poster animals for overgrazing, water pollution and an unsustainable industry. While some of the criticism is warranted, cattle production – even allowing herds to roam through grasslands and orchards – can be beneficial to the environment as well as sustainable.

Our four–year study suggests that AMP grazing can potentially offset greenhouse gas emissions, and the finishing phase of beef production could be a net carbon sink, with carbon levels staying in the green rather than in the red.

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In the sustainability section above there are two articles that illustrate ways of reducing carbon footprint. When cattle grow faster due to less energy wastage through Methane production or when more carbon ends up in the soil as a result of grazing management, there is plenty of potential for economic returns to producers as well.
Small Changes in Productivity Can Make a Big Difference to the Bottom Line
Alan Lauder, Soils For Life | March 16, 2018
Discussing management of carbon flows relates to both economic outcomes and environmental outcomes. This week is all about economics.

If I asked an average sheep or cattle producer if they could double their profit, I would be laughed at. However, if I asked could you increase production by 9%, I would get a hearing. The interesting thing is that they are both the same thing in a marginal industry.

McDonald's Becomes the First Restaurant Company to Set Approved Science Based Target to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
McDonald's News | March 20, 2018
McDonald's announces it will partner with franchisees and suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to McDonald's restaurants and offices by 36% by 2030 from a 2015 base year in a new strategy to address global climate change.

Additionally, McDonald's commits to a 31% reduction in emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across its supply chain by 2030 from 2015 levels. This combined target has been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Through these actions, McDonald's expects to prevent 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030.

Meat Industry Welcomes CPTPP Signing  
Aiden Fortune, Global Meat News | March 9, 2018
Canadian Meat Council (CMC) president and CEO Chris White said the signing of the deal would be a big boost for the domestic meat industry.

"CMC is confident that this deal has the potential to increase beef and pork sales by at least $1 billion, creating the potential to support an over 11,000 new jobs here in Canada."

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA) also welcomed the signing. B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said it will save the sector NZ$63 million in tariffs. "The New Zealand sheep and beef sector exports close to 90% of its production totaling $7.5 billion, on which we paid $231 million of tariffs in 2016," he explained. Bayer, WFO to launch global Care4Cattle grant to advance cattle well–being,

Every day, livestock professionals around the world demonstrate their commitment to ensuring the well–being and health of the animals in their care. In support of their dedication, Bayer has launched the global Care4Cattle initiative aimed at recognizing innovative thinking that can advance animal well–being, in partnership with the World Farmers' Organisation (WFO).

Living in the Netherlands I can confirm that there is quite a lot of political activism related to animal welfare; there is even a political party called the Party for Animals with 5 seats in the National Parliament (out of 150), and 33 in municipalities around the country.
Animal Welfare A 'Growing Consideration' for Consumers  
Caroline Allen, Agriland | March 18, 2018
Good animal welfare is an increasingly critical consideration for consumers, according to Mark Zieg, meat production sector manager, Bord Bia.

"Good welfare is an increasingly important requirement coming from the marketplace and is something that we track across a range of markets in our insights work, which then feeds into our promotional approach," he said.

Sustainable Beef Pilot Passes First–Quarter Mark  
Country Guide | March 16, 2018 | March 18, 2018
The project, dubbed the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration (CBSA) pilot, was set up to test and validate the audit and traceability systems needed to meet the requirements of the Certified Sustainable Beef Framework laid out by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).

The pilot project, which so far has taken in cattle from over 70 eligible producers, was able to "successfully" certify over 550,000 pounds of beef as per CRSB's standards and supply chain guidelines, Cargill said.

JBS $200 Million Sale of Five Rivers Cattle Feeding Final
Sharon Dunn, Greeley Tribune | March 17, 2018
It took about eight months, but JBS is finally free of its Five Rivers Cattle Feeding operations. The Greeley–based company had planned since last June to sell its massive cattle feeding operations, which span six states including Colorado. The deal became final and closed on Friday.

Pinnacle Asset Management, a private New York–based asset management firm that focuses on global commodities markets, acquired the operations for $200 million.

The sale to Pinnacle includes 11 feed yards across Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, with feeding capacity of more than 900,000 animals. The firm also agreed to supply cattle to JBS USA beef processing plants.

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Vietnam Spends Millions on Animal Welfare to Secure More Australian Beef  
Lydia Burton, Radio Australia | March 13, 2018
As part of the beef sector's development in Vietnam there is also a strong push for improved food safety.

MLA and the Australian Government have supported the industry through this development. MLA has focused its efforts on educating the industry about opportunities to expand its markets for beef.

The Government has initially funded the training, which will be undertaken by a registered training organisation in Australia.

"The intention is that it transitions into a sustainable model, so we will hand it over to the Vietnamese and train the trainers," Dr Patching said.

Economy Can Gain Massively From The Livestock Sub–Sector  
Jane Mwangi, The Standard | March 13, 2018
That Kenyans eat the most meat in East Africa is indisputable. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations statistics indicate that Kenyans consumed about 14 kilogrammes of meat per year by 2013. Recent data indicate that the average Kenyan eats almost three times as much meat as the average Rwandese.

This therefore means that the livestock industry is big business in Kenya due to the growing demand for meat. But where does Kenya's meat come from? Kenya's Arid and Semi–Arid areas host over 60 percent of all livestock in the country, employing about 90 percent of the local population.

Defending Your Ranch: Develop Allies, Not Enemies
Burt Rutherford, BEEF Magazine | March 14, 2018
The Cattlemen's College sessions were held on the first day of the Cattle Industry Convention in Phoenix last month. If you've never attended the convention, the Cattlemen's College sessions alone make the trip well worthwhile.

All four speakers, two from the beef business and two representing federal agencies, echoed that theme, using examples from their own experiences to show how successful you can be by cooperating with others.

Those of you who don't produce cattle on federal grazing permits are probably wondering what this has to do with you. The answer is everything—while you may not have to deal with the BLM or the Forest Service, you still have to deal with government agencies. That may be your county government, your state game and fish or natural resources department, and the list goes on.

You can bow up and fight, or you can sit down and talk, find the common ground that you both can agree on and work from there.

This is quite an odd article; the author cites a paper by Céline Bonnet & colleagues from 2016 which very clearly concludes that "our results…confirm that it is indeed difficult to significantly decrease the market shares of meat and marine products even with a high level of taxes. The reason is that the demand for meat and marine products is quite inelastic."

They do, however, suggest that taxing beef only would cause an increase in consumption of other meat and marine products at the expense of beef consumption. What the paper does not consider however, is cross border trade – which would doubtless respond to any such tax regime. While taxes might impact consumption by the poorest people in one country, the surplus created will be consumed by others, unless the taxes were universal. See a reply to the NYT article in Drovers.

The Case for a Carbon Tax on Beef
Richard Conniff, New York Times | March 17, 2018
The cattle industry would like to keep it that way. Oil, gas and coal had to play along, for instance, when the Obama–era Environmental Protection Agency instituted mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the program to track livestock emissions was mysteriously defunded by Congress in 2010, and the position of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at the time was that the extent of the emissions was "alleged and unsubstantiated." The association now goes an Orwellian step further, arguing in its 2018 policy book that agriculture is a source of offsets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture, including cattle raising, is our third–largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after the energy and industrial sectors. At first glance, the root of the problem may appear to be our appetite for meat generally.

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