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


Executive Director's Message

A question that GRSB gets asked periodically by members is why there are both global and national roundtables? The decision to have this umbrella structure was taken early on in our organisation's development, as we recognised a couple of important features of the beef industry which distinguish it from some other agricultural sectors.

The first is that beef can be and is produced in a far wider range of environments than most crops; there are grazing and rangelands from close to the arctic to the equator, and within that range of physical environments there have evolved an equally wide range of legislative environments, resulting in hugely varied production systems. So it was never going to be an option to come up with a global sustainability system that could accommodate the needs of those differing environments and their production systems.

The second reason is that the expertise in each of those production systems is logically found in the place where they have evolved; it would have been both inefficient and frankly absurd to think that one global organisation could manage processes for all production systems.

GRSB then acts as an umbrella organisation to bring together the work of all of the national roundtables, to stimulate the emergence of new national or regional groups and to ensure that ultimately progress is continuous and global. Detractors of the beef industry are very good at taking examples from one place and extrapolating them to a global level.

We know that issues vary widely from place to place, but unfortunately opponents of beef production choose to ignore that. Dr Frank Mitloehner regularly presents material showing how global figures often presented about the beef industry bear no relation to the US, but those figures still stick in the public consciousness and continue to be quoted. It is, therefore, essential that the key issues in each area are addressed locally, but contribute to the global picture of overall improvement.

There is a further reason for GRSB acting as an umbrella, and that is to protect the interests of our roundtable members in other countries. While a national group has the mandate and the expertise to address issues at home, those countries are involved in a global industry with numerous global trading partners. It's important that when international companies talk about sustainability and are dealing with a roundtable, whichever country it may be from, they can have the confidence that it is part of an international alliance where all of the roundtables are able to learn, exchange information with and collaborate equally, and all contribute positively to sustainability

If there are attempts to make sustainable beef roundtables a means of market differentiation, we will lose the benefit of the global approach, and ultimately fail to impact in areas where the greatest problems exist. If there is no global overview, we could also see a decrease in the level of national ambition to bring about continuous improvement. That would be to the detriment of the whole industry, because as I noted above, we are all challenged on the basis of global figures, not local ones.

As national roundtables gradually cover more of the globe, and more sustainable beef becomes available on a pre–competitive basis, the role of GRSB will inevitably evolve. More resources will be focused on presenting the collective achievements of our roundtable members, and less will be required to support new ones. It is good and healthy for GRSB to evolve, and though it's too early to predict exactly how that will happen, I hope that it will result in greater collaboration between regions and greater recognition of the importance of all beef becoming more sustainable, wherever it is produced.

Thank you for your continued support as a GRSB member!

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Strong Early Results Claimed in Canada's Certified Sustainable Beef Model
BEEF Central | April 2, 2018
The first three months of Canada's beef sustainability pilot project has yielded encouraging results, proving the model works and demonstrating significant potential to scale the program to deliver a greater volume of certified sustainable beef to consumers. The pilot, being conducted by Cargill, is now encouraging more Canadian beef producers to participate in the program for the remainder of 2018.

Beef 2018 Seminar to Explore Sustainable Beef in Northern Australia + VIDEO  
Jon Condon, BEEF Central | March 23, 2018
The opportunities and challenges surrounding sustainable beef production in northern Australia will come into focus during a seminar program being staged in Rockhampton during Beef Australia 2018 in Ma. To view a short precis from seminar chair, David Crombie, click HERE.

I'm Lovin' It: McDonald's Exemplifies a Sustainability Leader
Elizabeth Sturcken, Forbes | March 30, 2018
Here are the details: by 2030, McDonald's is pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their restaurants and offices by 36 percent, and reduce their emissions intensity (per metric ton of food and packaging) across their supply chain by 31 percent. The company estimates these reductions will prevent 150 million metric tons of C02 equivalents (CO2e) from being released into the atmosphere.

I am not going to comment in depth on this article; it quotes a range of people with differing views on the subject, but the point of including it here is that it illustrates just how mainstream the issue is now in the public view.
At Hamburger Central, Antibiotics for Cattle That Aren't Sick
Danny Hakim, NY Times | March 23, 2018
"Some 70 percent to 80 percent of American antibiotic sales go to livestock. In addition to the emergence of resistant disease strains, some microbiologists worry that the proliferation of antibiotics, despite their miraculous health benefits, is having a chaotic impact on microbes in the human gut.

While Cactus has taken steps to limit the use of such drugs, it sees cheap and plentiful hamburgers and steaks as a byproduct of industrialization.

"We've got to take that potential value and balance it against the risk," said Paul Defoor, co–chief executive of Cactus. "Antibiotic resistance is a fact of life, no two ways about it," he added. "We want to make sure that by virtue of our using these products we're not contributing to it."

This is one of the first posts by the Union of Concerned Scientists I have read that acknowledges the role of ruminants in the food system. It is, at any rate, a more nuanced view than we typically see from them..
Room for Ruminants in a Sustainable Future? Taking a Step Back to Find More Steps Forward
Marcia Delonge, Union of Concerned Scientists | March 29, 2018
Ruminants, especially cattle (particularly beef cattle), have gotten a bad rap for their effects on climate, water, land and health. However, research and practice also point to cases in which ruminants can help improve the sustainability of farms, increasing farm resilience to extreme weather and supporting the livelihoods of some of the land's best stewards.

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The Savory Institute's Land To Market Verification Aims to Regenerate 1bn Hectares of Land  
Elizabeth Crawford, Food Navigator | March 27, 2018
After decades of a slow build, the regenerative agriculture movement is finally taking off, thanks in part to the Savory Institute, which has launched the Land to Market verification program, which is designed to help stakeholders not just sustain the environment, but also improve it.

Speaking to FoodNavigator–USA at the Natural Products Expo West trade show earlier this month, Chris Kerston, director of market engagement at the Savory Institute, explained: "For decades we have been talking about sustainability, and sustainability is all about how do we do the least amount of bad."

Field to Market and USRSB Announce Partnership
Feedstuffs | March 29, 2018
Two leading sustainability initiatives combine forces to advance beef value chain sustainability. Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture and the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) announced March 29 an agreement establishing mutual recognition of the value and importance of each organization's work and a commitment to foster an increased level of collaboration.

"We realize the sustainability of the beef industry must include all facets of the what goes in to putting that hamburger or steak on our tables," said Rickette Collins, chair of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. "By sharing learnings and expertise, USRSB and Field to Market can lead the beef industry to better solutions to the sustainability challenges we all face throughout the value chain."

Quick Tip: Cattle Health, Nutrition and Their Role in Implant Program Success
The Cattle Site | March 22, 2018
Cattle health can directly impact implant program results. Douglas Hilbig, DVM, Beef Technical Services veterinarian with Zoetis, has witnessed such cases firsthand. "I have seen instances where high–risk, unhealthy cattle come in and, unfortunately, are mismanaged. When an animal's health is not straightened out quickly enough, the opportunity for gain can be diminished," Dr. Hilbig said. "Even though the cattle received the same nutrition and implant as others in the herd, their closeout weights were much less — 100 pounds, maybe even more."

How Blockchain Technology Can Reassure Food Consumers
Hubert Lau, Troy Media | March 21, 2018
BIXS sees blockchain as a logical addition to traceability in the beef industry, able to easily track specific information. Traceability, transparency and sustainability support a beef production system that prioritizes the planet, people, animals and progress.

The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef framework for producers makes Canada the first country in the world to launch a producer framework for sustainable beef production, to certify cattle operations and track chain of custody. Our country is considered one of the world leaders in sustainable beef production.

Bayer, WFO to Launch Global Care4cattle Grant to Advance Cattle Well–being  
Feedstuffs | March 21, 2018
WFO president Theo De Jager said, "Animal well–being is of growing emphasis around the world. Effective implementation of sustainable animal well–being standards requires constant innovation, as well as a strong partnership between farmers, industry, all levels of government and the community. For these reasons, we are pleased to be able to collaborate with Bayer on this project. Improving cattle well–being at the farm level benefits the animals, and this ultimately also benefits the farmers."

Interesting to come across two articles about pain management this week. The one below and this one in Tri–State News.
Consider Pain–Management Options

John Maday, Drovers | March 21, 2018
Across livestock production, we've seen growing acceptance of the relationships between stress, disease and lost performance. We're also operating in a time when consumer perceptions are evolving rapidly and playing a growing role in how we raise food animals.

For example, Merck Animal Health recently introduced Banamine Transdermal (flunixin transdermal solution) – the first and only FDA–approved product for pain control in a food producing animal. It is approved for the control of pain associated with foot rot and fever associated with bovine respiratory disease (BRD). This is a prescription medication, so producers and veterinarians need to work together to determine how it fits within a particular production system.

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US Meat Groups Fear China Beef Tariff Hike Risks Market Growth
Theopolis Waters, Successful Farming | April 4, 2018
China's proposal on Wednesday for tariffs on U.S. beef confirmed the worst–case scenario for the U.S. cattle industry, trade groups said on Wednesday, even as they remained hopeful the dispute could be resolved quickly.

China listed U.S. goods from soybeans to beef that could potentially incur a 25% import tariff by the end of May if Washington carries out its threat to raise similar duties on $50 billion in Chinese goods.

New Investment Fund Launched Dedicated to Innovative Animal Health, Nutrition  
Feedstuffs | March 21, 2018
Seventure Partners, one of Europe's leaders in financing innovation and a world leader in Life science microbiome investment, announced that it has launched AVF, the innovative venture capital fund, targeted at supporting companies in the field of animal health, feed and nutrition.

The rapidly growing world population and the increased demand from emerging countries for animal protein present significant challenges to the sector as well as the requirement to meet environmental objectives and for sustainable production within the livestock industry.

The Myth of the Indian Vegetarian Nation  
Soutik Biswas, BBC News, India | April 4, 2018
What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat? The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that's not the case at all. Past "non–serious" estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food. If you go by three large–scale government surveys, 23%–37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US–based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India–based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of "cultural and political pressures". So people under–report eating meat – particularly beef – and over–report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

You may have read the TIME article on the reaction of the beef industry to alternative meats; the one below from Dan Murphy is an industry commentators view on why a knee jerk negative reaction is not desirable. As far as GRSB is concerned, alternative proteins fall outside of our purview, we are focusing on making production of real beef, wherever that may be, more sustainable, and we know that doing so will be beneficial for people, profit, planet and animals. It will be up to the alternatives to prove their worth in their own market; we should focus on the market for real sustainable beef.
Murphy: A Bad Reaction  
Dan Murphy, Drovers | March 21, 2018
Unfortunately, reactionary is an accurate description of the position of many people in the meat industry regarding the emergence of the alt–meat sector and the marketing of a number of plant–based "meat" products aimed at a segment of affluent consumers concerned (mainly) about the eco–impact of animal agriculture.

There is coordinated, often strident opposition to the media's coverage of this new sector, condemnation of the companies responsible for launching these new products and even demonization of the technology itself.

None of that is any good for the industry, from either a business standpoint or a public relations perspective. Rather than reacting to the popularity and publicity accorded these non–meat analogs, it's far better to start figuring out better messaging for the 80–plus percent of the population that still does — and will continue to — consume real meat.

Why Africa's Free–trade Area Offers So Much Promise  
Landry Signe, Business Day | March 31, 2018
African leaders have just signed a framework establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest free–trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The free–trade area aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa. By 2030 the market size is expected to include 1.7–billion people with more than $6.7–trillion of cumulative consumer and business spending — that is if all African countries have joined the free–trade area by then. Ten countries, including SA and Nigeria, have yet to sign up.

The goal is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments.

From Carbon To Feral Donkeys, Northern Cattlemen Tell It How It Is  
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | March 23, 2018
It was a tale of social, political and environmental ironies having huge impacts on the global competitiveness of the northern pastoralist that colourful grazier Tom Stockwell fashioned as his final word in the role of Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association president. From carbon sequestration to research on feral donkey genetics, Mr Stockwell listed a host of conflicting realities posing significant risk to the northern beef producer's tenure and productivity.

"The northern beef industry has borne the cost of Australia's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and we now know that we have a positive sequestration story to tell, and a significant sustainability issue if we do not control woody regrowth and allow sensible planned clearing as a management response," Mr Stockwell said

Survey Says Beef Producers Give Cautious Support to Traceability
Nevil Speer, BEEF Magazine | April 5, 2018
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Beef Industry Long Range Plan (2016–2020) includes the strategic objective to, "Conduct a feasibility study to understand the economic opportunity of opening new and expanding markets, and the lost opportunity in the event of an animal disease outbreak."

That's an important initiative that resulted in new report released at NCBA's 2018 Annual Convention in Phoenix: U.S. Beef Identification and Traceability Systems: Opportunities, Obstacles and Incentives Across the Value Chain (PDF). The comprehensive study, performed by World Perspectives, includes literature review, economic analyses, industry surveys and qualitative interviews.

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