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


Executive Director's Message

People, Planet, Profit, Animals. I imagine all of our readers are familiar with our own definition of sustainable beef summarised in those four words, which are a direct reference to our five principles: People and the Community, Natural Resources, Efficiency and Innovation, Food and Animal Health & Welfare.

I mention this because I am in Mongolia this week, attending the annual meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, at which I will present the great work being done by our members and roundtables around the world to advance those five principles and their accompanying criteria.

In the past these meetings have tended to talk in a fairly general way about sustainability, and relate it to a number (increasing each year) of focus areas, such as restoring value to grasslands, reducing the efficiency gap, animal welfare and antimicrobial stewardship.

In several of these areas, there has been sufficient overlap with our work to keep me coming back, hearing what others are doing and sharing the impact of the work that our members around the world is having.

This morning, the general session was introduced in a way that brought the focus of GASL into sharper focus. The steering group has picked four priorities which I hope you'll find quite interesting: Food and Nutrition, Livelihoods and Economic Growth, Animal Health and Welfare, and Climate and Natural Resource use. While the wording is slightly different, you can see immediately that there is 100% overlap between our Principles and these priorities.

This is interesting to us because it shows that the track we have taken is not only acceptable to the GASL, but it is the one that they are going to follow. The means of implementation will be different, just as they are between national roundtables, but I hope you can all agree with the fact that they align so well with our principles is an endorsement of our process, and will facilitate ongoing dialogue.

Perhaps most importantly, this suggests that there are not likely to be parallel competing processes, but effectively one set of principles / priorities that both GRSB and GASL subscribe to.

Thank you.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

We have heard about the use of algae to modify rumen flora before, and I recently had a conversation with one manufacturer of such a product. It seems that commercially available preparations are not far away.
Can Seaweed Cut Cow Burps? UC Davis Researchers Think It Can

Diane Nelson, The Reporter | May 25, 2018
Seaweed may be the super food dairy cattle need to reduce the amount of methane they excrete every day.

Early results from research at UC Davis indicate that just a touch of the ocean algae in cattle feed could dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions from the gas emissions of California’s 1.8 million dairy cows.

The emissions commonly come from their burps, flatulence and feces.

Investors have the power to move the needle where others don’t; when they talk about the need to change we can expect that change will follow.
New Coller FAIRR Food Index Raises Concerns Over ''High–Risk'’ Firms

Simon Harvey, Just–Food | May 30, 2018A new index launched by investor network FAIRR has identified 36 global meat and fish companies as "high risk" when it comes to health, environmental and social issues.

The gauge looks at farm animal investment risk and return (FAIRR) for the investment community and contains 60 worldwide firms valued at $300bn.

Collers' analysis has found a "large majority of meat, fish and dairy suppliers are failing to manage critical business risks such as greenhouse gas emissions and antibiotics risk."

The Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index ranks its constituents as either low, medium or high risk.

This story, based on an article written by a student at Oxford university has been very widely reported. There’s no doubt that it has proven popular with the media.
Diet Change Can Have Biggest Environmental Impact – Study  
Joseph James Whitworth, FOOD Navigator | 06/04/18
The study found animal product free diets can deliver environmental benefits. The study found animal product free diets can deliver environmental benefits. Diet change is the best way to mitigate the effect of food production on the environment, according to a study.

Researchers at Oxford University and Swiss institute, Agroscope, quantified environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), land and water use, ocean acidification and eutrophication. Animal product free diets deliver greater environmental benefits than buying sustainable meat or dairy or changing production practices.

Plant–based diets reduce food's emissions by up to 73% depending on place of residence. This reduction is in GHG, acidifying and eutrophying emissions as well as freshwater withdrawals which fell by a quarter.

While the consumer opinions against dairy pre–date those on beef, we should not be complacent. Undoubtedly the tide of anti meat voices and articles (such as the one above), has been rising rapidly.
Dairy Sector Must Learn From Its Dairy–free Counterparts, Says Rabobank  
Lauren Dean, Farmers Guardian | June 4, 2018
It is about time dairy farmers started taking lessons from their dairy–free counterparts, according to financial services company Rabobank.

The firm said the industry should ‘connect emotionally’ and reflect the success of alternative milk products in their own produce, following tips nutrition, price and flavour tended to favour the sector.

Changing consumer perceptions around health, lifestyle choices and perceived sustainability was also persuading more consumers to choose dairy–free, it added.

This was a useful session – the level of misconceptions is hard to imagine – and work needs to be done to combat them.
What's Consumers' "Beef" with Beef? Consumer Panel Reveals Concerning Issues of Misinformation  
Oklahoma Farm Report | May 25, 2018
The US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef held a consumer panel in at its meeting in Oklahoma City, earlier this month. It was generally friendly toward beef consumption and purchases, but there was a worry expressed by some of the panelists regarding hormones in their beef. A couple of them responded to a direct question about their worries.

"You hear that little girls are now maturing at a faster rate because of growth hormones," one panelist responded. "This isn’t normal, this isn’t healthy and they’re saying it’s because of the meat that they are eating and I don’t want this to happen to my daughters or any other little girls… That’s what I heard."

Fortunately, the panelist has it wrong. Her second–hand claims are not scientific fact at all. What scientists actually say is that the less than 1 nano–gram increase of estrogen in a serving of beef that’s been implanted, really has nothing to do with the potential of reaching puberty earlier by children. Instead, it is more likely that childhood obesity is the culprit.

True or not, though, consumers still worry about this and other falsehoods. Weston Givens, president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association who was there to spectate, says it is important that the industry address these issues.

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Beef + Lamb NZ Supports Phased Eradication Decision
Scoop | May 28, 2018
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) supports the decision announced by the Government to attempt phased eradication of Mycoplasma bovis (Mp. bovis) from New Zealand. "This has been a difficult decision to reach, and we acknowledge that it won’t please all farmers," says B+LNZ Chairman Andrew Morrison.

"However, with only a limited window in which to attempt to eradicate Mp. bovis, the decision to continue eradication efforts has been made with the best long–term interests of the wider pastoral sector in mind.

Report Identifies Key Target Markets for Irish Food and Drink Producers  
Peter Hamilton, The Irish Times | May 18, 2018
Half of the growth in the Republic’s agrifood export volumes last year came from markets outside of Europe, led by a sixfold increase in exports to China, a report shows.

A report from Bord Bia, Prioritising Markets: Opportunities for Growth, details the increasing importance of other markets for food and drink exporters, noting that China is the second biggest market for Irish dairy while the United States absorbs almost 45 per cent of Irish whiskey exports.

How General Mills, McDonalds and Kering Are Setting Credible, Courageous Sustainability Goals  
Sara Murphy, GreenBiz | May 31, 2018
Corporate adoption of science–driven sustainability targets is gaining momentum, as companies seek to align their strategies more specifically with the ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to avoid global temperature increases of more than 2 degrees Celsius.

In a recent GreenBiz webcast, a panel of experts – including strategists from General Mills, Kering and McDonald's – explained why going big on sustainability goals is increasingly a smart business strategy, as well as a good stewardship policy.

They discussed the intersection of today’s major frameworks, such as science–driven goal setting, the Science–Based Targets initiative (SBTI), planetary boundaries, Sustainable Development Goals, and more, and provided concrete business cases from several organizations on how they are conducting this transition.

Private Sector Leaders Seek to Ramp Up Investment In Sustainable Landscapes With Help of Public Partners
Lisa Palmer, Mongabay | 05/28/18
Business models would change faster by incorporating the positive or negative consequences of agricultural activities, such as pricing carbon and avoided deforestation, onto the balance sheet and into higher–priced commodities and better certification schemes.

"With global population increasing and natural capital decreasing, we are in urgent need of change," said Bas Ruter, a director of sustainability and lead of the forest protection and sustainable agriculture fund at Rabobank.

In partnership with the UN Environment Program, Rabobank is investing 700 million Euros over the next five to seven years in a $1–billion–initiative aimed at making agriculture more sustainable. The focus is on stopping deforestation, investing in degraded lands instead of deforestation, and increasing reforestation and integrated livestock and agroforestry efforts rather than large–scale monoculture.

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China has struggled with pollution in many industries; it’s encouraging to hear that the need for change has also been felt by the cattle industry, there is a lot of work to be done there.
Across China: Cattle Farms Along Yangtze Renovated to Reduce Pollution
Xinhuanet | May 27, 2018
The county of Fengdu in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality is overhauling its cattle farms to cut pollution along the Yangtze River.

The county famous for beef has over 1,000 cattle farms, the largest with over 10,000 head. One of the country's largest beef producer Hondo Beef is headquartered in Fengdu. There are more than 210,000 cattle in the county, according to the county animal husbandry bureau.

"About four years ago, pollution from cow dung was alarming, and we had to take action," said He Chuandong, deputy director of the bureau.

The Role Of Innovation In Europe's Animal Health  
EURACTIV | May 27, 2018
In an effort to minimise outbreaks of animal diseases, the European Commission adopted in 2007 the "Prevention is better than cure" approach when it comes to animal health strategy. According to the executive, the objective was to focus on preventive measures, disease surveillance, controls and research.

Since then, several policy initiatives have been put forward, such as the Animal Health Law in 2016, based on the principle that "healthy animals mean healthy people".

How important is the vaccination for animals? How could innovation in animal health lead to sustainable livestock? What is the role of EU farmers in promoting a responsible use of antibiotics in livestock? How could new technologies in agriculture help improve animal health surveillance systems?

New Zealand Orders Cattle Cull to Tackle Disease Outbreak
Dairy Global | May 29, 2018
A major cull of cattle has been announced in New Zealand by the government in a bid to eradicate the dreaded Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis ) disease which has been spreading throughout the country. Around 126,000 cattle will be culled over the next 2 years, on top of the 26,000 cattle already being culled, as part of the wider eradication programme costing NZ$ 886 million (€ 526million, £462million, US$615million) over 10 years.

It interested me that this suddenly became a news article. In fact the feedlots they are referring to are not particularly large by international standards, and fed cattle have always been an essential part of the UK industry, both in terms of smoothing supply and in buffering grain supplies.
Revealed: Industrial–Scale Beef Farming Comes to the UK  
Andrew Wasley, Heather Kroeker, The Guardian | May 29, 2018
Thousands of British cattle reared for supermarket beef are being fattened in industrial–scale units where livestock have little or no access to pasture.

Research by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has established that the UK is now home to a number of industrial–scale fattening units with herds of up to 3,000 cattle at a time being held in grassless pens for extended periods rather than being grazed or barn–reared.

Intensive beef farms, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are commonplace in the US. But the practice of intensive beef farming in the UK has not previously been widely acknowledged – and the findings have sparked the latest clash over the future of British farming.

Many of our members were at the Meat Congress, as was our own Director for Latin America, Josefina Eisele.
World Meat Congress Features Ag Ministers, Trade Policy Experts, Leading Economic Analysts  
KTIC | June 1, 2018
On a day filled with breaking trade news, World Meat Congress attendees heard from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his counterparts from Canada and Argentina, along with leading experts in the areas of trade policy and economic analysis. The 22nd World Meat Congress is being held in Dallas May 31 and June 1, hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) and the International Meat Secretariat.

Perdue delivered Thursday’s keynote address, reminding the audience of the millions of consumers who benefit from agricultural innovation, advancement and trade. Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri–Food Lawrence MacAulay emphasized that the red meat industry is a critical economic engine for Canada and many other countries represented at the World Meat Congress.

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