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


Executive Director's Message

Last week the GRSB board agreed to release our Antimicrobial Stewardship statement to the General Assembly (all member organisations) to vote on. This statement is the culmination of months of work that has involved many of our members, in drafting, reviewing, offering suggested edits, revising and reviewing again.

I would like to thank all members for their hard work on this and their willingness to engage in the process. Naturally there have been issues where it has been hard to find complete agreement. What is encouraging is that there has been broad consensus about the need for an antimicrobial stewardship statement, and on much of its contents. Where there were differences of opinion, we found them largely to be in detail and nuance rather than in the fundamental issues. All members who commented during the second comment period will receive feedback on how their comments were handled.

The issue continues to be as current as when we first discussed it in 2014, and while it is an issue that is alluded to only indirectly in our principles and criteria, it is clearly still one of the major themes in sustainable livestock production. As with our principles and criteria, this Antimicrobial Stewardship statement is to be periodically reviewed and if necessary edited in the future.

It is not a set of rules – GRSB does not have a structure to mandate or enforce any given set of practices. This is simply the consensus of the membership involved in its drafting and editing of where they think sustainable practice should be leading.

I invite you all now to review this final version. The primary contacts of each member organisation will receive an email with the link to vote as to whether this is guidance you wish GRSB to formally adopt.

Thanks again for all of your time and effort to bring it to this stage.

Thank you.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
  Welcome to the Table...
Dateline: May 2018 |  Constituency: Commerce & Processing
Founded at the beginning of 1900s, Indunor, the Argentinean company of the Silvateam group, with commercial offices in Buenos Aires, is the world leader in the manufacture and marketing of quebracho extracts. More than three–quarters of its production is exported to 60 countries around the world. Environmental protection is one Indunor's main goals and the preservation of the Chaco forests guarantees the continuation of its commercial activities. These natural and sustainable products are suitable for a wide range of applications such as leather tanning, animal health and nutrition, food, beverages and many other industrial uses.

While Dutch livestock producers did indeed reduce antibiotic use dramatically following government policy, and have since adapted management systems to cope with this regime, there were certainly intermediate negative impacts on calf mortality and herd productivity. The lesson is that changing management systems is possible, but sufficient time needs to be allowed for adaptation in order to avoid negative impacts.
Rabobank: Livestock Antibiotics Minimums Proved Sustainable In Netherlands

Meat + Poultry | May 15, 2018
Rabobank recently published information about moving toward a sustainable minimum for livestock antibiotics. According to the Dutch company, farmers in the Netherlands have reduced antibiotics in livestock farming without negatively impacting overall economic and technical farm performance. The details were displayed in its report titled, "Breaking the habit: Antibiotic Reduction in Livestock Farming."

"In mainstream animal protein production, a sustainable minimum for antibiotics usage is the carefully formulated answer to a complex equation of preventing antimicrobial resistance, maintaining efficiency in production, improving animal welfare, and satisfying consumer demand," said Karen Heuvelmans, industry analyst of farm inputs at Rabobank.

It was also reported that Dutch livestock saw a 64 percent reduction in antibiotic use in 2016 after implementing these policies

This article is clearly aimed at the public at large, not industry, but looking beyond the tone, Driskill's investment in "blockchain calves" is part of the revolution in traceability and supply chain transparency that is now taking place.
Free Range Beef Bound By the Blockchain
Michael del Castillo, Forbes | May 17, 2018
In many ways, Wyoming Senator Ogden Driskill is an unlikely candidate to be leading the blockchain revolution in his home state. His family have been ranchers since the early 1800s, and "delivered cattle to both sides of the Civil War," as he put it in a recent interview with Forbes.

His grandchildren are the eighth generation of Driskills to live in the shadow of Devils Tower, America's first national monument, and in 2015 he registered 5,000 acres of his family's land, called Campstool Ranch, for an agricultural conservation easement designed to protect its wildlife and open spaces in perpetuity.

But in other ways the senator, who earlier this year introduced a series of sweeping bills designed to recognize crypto–assets on a blockchain and more, is the perfect leader.

Those of you who were at the global conference on sustainable beef in Banff in 2016 may remember John Cain Carter making the point that deforestation in Brazil is driven by economics – cleared land is worth more than forest. Cattle occupy less land in the Brazil than 30 years ago, while crops have expanded enormously, though cattle have continued to be the first enterprise on recently cleared land.
Brazil Has The Tools To End Amazon Deforestation Now: Report
Giovanni Ortolani, Mongabay | May 18, 2018
Brazil has no reason to further deforest the Amazon, as there is plenty of degraded land available for agribusiness growth and profit. This is the positive pragmatic message put forth in "A Pathway to Zero Deforestation in the Amazon," a report first launched at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, last November, by the Zero Deforestation Working Group (ZDWG), a coalition of NGO analysts from Greenpeace, Instituto Centro de Vida, Imaflora, Imazon, Instituto Socioambiental, Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The document's aim is to illustrate workable strategies for eliminating Amazon deforestation in the short term, with environmental, economic and social benefits for all.

Mauro Lúcio Costa has also presented to the GCSB and, like John Carter is a rancher leading sustainability efforts in Brazil. What he is saying is that more intensive management makes herds more productive – not surprising to some, but still novel to others in a country where some of the most extensive operations are essentially harvesting rather than managing their cattle. The point is made again that cleared land is simply worth much more than forest.
One Small Rancher's Big Role in Saving Brazil's Amazon
Paulo Trevisani, The Wall Street Journal | May 19, 2018
Mr. Costa, who has 2,500 head of cattle, says he now produces 750 pounds of meat per acre, up from 151 pounds 15 years ago, and he has been able to keep 80% of his land covered with forest, as mandated by law. "When I say, 'You can get more beef out of the same land,' they say I'm crazy," said Mr. Costa, as he drove across farmland on a recent sweltering day. "I feel like a Martian."

Here in the rain forest, the animals are smaller, feeding on blades of low–quality grass. At a slaughterhouse run by JBS SA in Pará state, the average animal weighed a slim 550 pounds, 150 pounds less than cows raised in feedlots in other parts of Brazil where the company also has plants.

At the JBS slaughterhouse recently, plant workers stamped "A" for "absent fat" on the carcasses, indicating they are below industry standards. The meatpacker pays extra for an animal with a full fat coverage, but that is hard to find in this region, said Márcio Nappo, JBS's sustainability chief executive.

View More News

The Nature Conservancy Teams With Nestlé Purina And Cargill To Improve Water Sustainability In The Beef Supply Chain  
KRVN Rual Radio | May 24, 2018
The Nature Conservancy, in collaboration with Nestlé Purina and Cargill, is launching a three–year water project to improve the sustainability of the beef supply chain. This project is expected to reduce the environmental impact of row crop irrigation in Nebraska and provide a scalable irrigation solution for farmers across the U.S.

More than 50 percent of water used in U.S. beef production is dedicated to irrigating the row crops that become feed for cattle. By putting first–of–its–kind, cost–effective irrigation technology in the hands of farmers, the amount of water needed for row crop irrigation is greatly reduced, as is the environmental impact of the beef supply chain. The Nebraska project enables farmers to make more informed irrigation decisions, by installing smart weather sensors in crop fields and using Internet of Things (IoT) technology on sprinklers connected to a smart phone app.

An important takeaway from this article is that emissions intensity has decreased over time, and that the total from the US herd today is lower than it was in 1975. That's an important observation, because Methane is a short term GHG – it stays in the atmosphere around 10–12 years, and breaks down into CO2 and water, both of which were used to grow the plants eaten by the cattle in the first place. By decreasing total emissions volumes, the US industry has thus reduced the climate forcing impact of cattle over time.
Gassy Cows? Facts About Beef's Carbon Emissions  
Sara Place, GreenBiz | May 14, 2018
Let's clear the air on something up front. All those "cow farts" you've heard about? It's actually cow burps. Having spent much of my life around cows and conducting research measuring methane emissions from cattle (I'm sure most readers are jealous), I can confirm the vast majority of methane emissions emanating from cattle come out the front end. Also, despite the sensory experience "gassy cows" may evoke, methane itself is an odorless gas.

Methane emissions from cattle get attention because methane is 28 times (PDF) more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 100–year time frame. Additionally, methane from cattle represents nearly half (PDF) of the carbon footprint of U.S. beef when emissions over the entire life cycle, from feed production to the consumer, are considered. However, methane also can be viewed as the necessary tradeoff for the upcycling services that cattle provide.

Many of you will be familiar with the average herd size figure quoted here for the US – 40 head, and 90% of herds are fewer than 100 head. Given what we know about profitability and herd size needed to support a family, much of these operations / family businesses must be deriving most of their income from sources other than their herd. What does this mean for sustainability initiatives?
Check Out Cargill's New Interactive Beef Guide
Amanda Radke, BEEF Magazine | May 14, 2018
Released just in time for National Beef Month, Cargill Protein launched this educational beef guide to help explain how beef is produced in the United States and Canada.

A tour of the map tells the stories of ranchers, stockers, feedlot operators and packing plants.

The guide is filled with interesting tidbits, and even though I've been involved in the cattle business my entire life, I took away several new facts that I didn't know.

While the tone of this article is rather anti livestock, it clearly shows the benefits and enormous potential of silvo pastoral systems, which are impressive to visit, not just for Colombia, but for many tropical environments both humid and semi arid.
Colombians Work to Reconcile Cattle Farming And Forests

Maria Paula Rubiano, World Crunch | 05/15/18
In ambitious project to make livestock farming sustainable in Colombia is yielding results almost a decade after its implementation in 83 districts. Its lesson so far is that livestock and trees can coexist, and farmers can make money without cutting down the forest.

US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Elects Leadership
High Plains Journal | May 16, 2018
The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the Nation's leading multi–stakeholder beef sustainability group, announced a new board of directors and executive officer group during the recent Fourth Annual General Assembly Meeting in Oklahoma City. Elected by USRSB's diverse membership body of cattlemen and women, beef processors, retailers, restaurants, technology providers and environmental conservation organizations, the new USRSB board will drive the strategic direction and focus of the world's largest collaborative beef sustainability forum.

An experienced group of beef production and sustainability experts will serve as USRSB officers for the 2018–2019 term, providing leadership and coordination of the interests of all members and stakeholders. Kim Stackhouse–Lawson, director of sustainability at JBS USA and recognized beef sustainability expert, will serve as chair. Ben Weinheimer, vice president of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, a national livestock organization representing 28 percent of the fed cattle produced in the United States, will serve as chair–elect. Debbie Lyons–Blythe, manager of Blythe Family Farms, a multi–generational Angus cattle ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas that has been in family hands since the 1890s, will serve as secretary/treasurer.

View More News

This is a bigger figure than I knew, but includes the extensive development on houses on "lifestyle" plots of 1–20 acres. It would be interesting to know the figures concerning all of the land still registered as agricultural, but not producing food. The article is interesting, but equally interesting are the maps. Look at the areas of light green and yellow on the 2012 map – all pasture and grazing land – and understand the importance of ruminants to US agriculture!
No Farms, No Food, No Future: 31 Million Acres Of Farmland Lost from 1992–2012  
The Fence Post | May 9, 2018
American Farmland Trust released the most comprehensive assessment ever undertaken of the loss of U.S. farmland and ranchland. "Farms Under Threat: The State of America's Farmland" sounds a stark warning: The loss of farmland is serious and will accelerate unless we take action
Among the report's key findings:
  • Between 1992 and 2012, almost 31 million acres of farmland were lost, equal to all the farmland in Iowa
  • Nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown,
  • 11 million of those acres were among the best farmland in the nation,
  • Development disproportionately occued on agricultural lands, with 62 percent of all
  • Expanding urban areas accounted for 59 percent of the loss. Low–density residential development, or the building of houses on 1–to–20–acre parcels, accounted for 41 percent.
The top ten beef exporting countries cover 92% of global trade. The impacts of the beef industry globally follow a different pattern.
Listen: How Drought Affects The Global Beef Industry  
The Country | May 15, 2018
In today's interview: Rabobank's US Animal Proteins Analyst Don Close looks into the global dynamics of the beef industry and how a big dry in the south–west States could affect beef production. Listen to 5:26 audio interview HERE.

Subcutaneous Fitbits? These Cows Are Modeling the Tracking Technology of the Future
Rachel Metz, MIT Technology Review | May 15, 2018
Just like the other cows, they eat, drink, and chew their cud. Occasionally, they walk over to a big, spinning red–and–black brush, suspended at bovine back height, for a scratch. But while the rest of the cows just get their scratch and move on, these cows deliver data. Trackers implanted in their bodies use low–energy Bluetooth to ping a nearby base station and transfer information about the cows' chewing frequency, temperature, and general rambling around the farm.

For now, they're just going about their normal lives, unintentionally providing data that helps train an artificial neural network. The hope is that in the near future, this AI will help farmers figure out quickly and easily how well cows and other livestock are eating, whether they're getting sick or about to give birth—things that are typically done today just by watching and waiting but are difficult to spot when you've got hundreds or thousands of animals to keep an eye on.

This will become increasingly important – investors rewarding producers who can demonstrate that they are a lower environmental risk, and who are investing in natural capital. Those of you who were at our board meeting in Canberra last year heard Steve Lacey of AgForce Qld present on their grazing BMP scheme that now covers some 50 million acres.
Investors Eye Off Natural Capital On Beef Farms
Shan Goodwin, Queensland Country Life | May 25, 2018
Investors are now screening business for a social purpose and their interest in sustainability goes further where agriculture is concerned.

Environmental economist James Bentley, from National Australia Bank, used that fact as one of many arguments for Australia's beef industry to move towards scientific and collaborative measurement to allow it to communicate responsible management.

At a sustainable food chains seminar held as part of Beef Australia in Rockhampton, hosted by Agforce, Mr Bentley reported investors were starting to ask more and more questions around climate risk, water scarcity and environmental degradation.

This was a soy trade, but it will not be long before more commodities are being traded using the same type of utilities.
HSBC and ING Complete Live Trade Finance Transaction on Blockchain
Finbarr Bermingham, Global Trade Review | May 14, 2018
HSBC and ING have conducted their first live, commercial trade finance transaction on blockchain, for agrifood trading giant Cargill.

The deal was completed using the R3 Corda platform, with a cargo of soybeans exported from Argentina to Malaysia.

Cargill was the exporter and importer on a deal that saw Cargill Geneva selling soybeans on behalf of Cargill Argentina, and Cargill Singapore buying the goods on behalf of Cargill Malaysia.

View More News
Administrative Offices:
13570 Meadowgrass Drive, Suite 201
Colorado Springs, CO 80921 USA
Phone: 1-719-355-2935
Fax: 1-719-538-8847
Email: admin@grsbeef.org
Copyright ©2018 Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. All rights reserved.
You are receiving this message as a benefit of membership to the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef