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


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Executive Director's Message

I was at a meeting last week in the Netherlands that brought together scientists from around the world to discuss Carbon Sequestration. One of the areas of discussion was the role of grazing systems in influencing soil C levels. To my surprise, there was no immediate consensus on the positive role of grazing management in influencing soil carbon.

The lack of consensus stemmed more from the fact that it is difficult to quantify the impact of different grazing management systems under different conditions, and particularly hard to model them and therefore estimate the benefit without taking physical measurements.

However, there are a couple of points to note here. First, since there is general consensus that grazing manages influences soil carbon and that increased soil carbon is beneficial in productivity and resilience to both flooding and drought, it should should not be necessary to quantify the carbon in order to recommend beneficial grazing practices. Secondly, the difficulty in modelling something should not discourage us from finding ways to quantify it.

There is general consensus that we need to sequester more carbon in the soil. If we cannot model responses to practices under different circumstances, then we need to measure them until we have enough data to be able to model them in the future. This is the approach taken in Australia where the Government has a system that will pay for carbon sequestration, but requires that claimants conduct soil sampling and analysis by an accredited laboratory.

That seems fair enough to me – soil carbon has a value to society and to the producer themselves. They will be paid for it, and all they are expected to do in return is to measure the changes. The system is completely optional in any case, so no producers are required to do this. Those who do however, can benefit twice: first in productivity and resilience terms and second through a sequestration payment.

Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Meet the Newest Recruits in California's War on Climate Change: Carbon Farmers  
Alastair Bland, Cal Matters | Sept. 26, 2018
Loren Poncia raises beef cattle. As he sees it, though, what he is really doing is raising soil. "I'm growing grass to feed to my cattle, but it all comes down to having high–quality soil," said Poncia, who owns Stemple Creek Ranch with his wife, Lisa.

He is among more than 80 farmers now engaged in a state–funded program aimed at increasing carbon concentrations in California's soil. Part of the state's overarching goal of curbing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, the California Healthy Soils Initiative took effect a year ago, when the state's cap–and–trade program made $7.5 million available in small grants to farmers like Poncia. This year, the Healthy Soils Program, one component of the initiative, is receiving about $15 million.

Common Ground on the Prairie
Martha Kauffman and Laura Nowlin, Mongabay | September 14, 2018
Ranchers across the Great Plains in the United States take very seriously their responsibility to be good stewards of the land and realized generations ago that the way to survive any environmental calamity is to ranch in a sustainable way. After homesteaders plowed up millions of acres of native prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, drought came in the 1920s and 1930s, bringing the Dust Bowl — possibly the worst environmental disaster in modern history.

Good stewardship of our native grasslands is one of the best ways to survive the next weather event. Grasses are rooted in the ground, which enables the soil to absorb and retain more water. That, in turn, prevents sediment, fertilizer, pesticides, and other compounds in the soil from running off into nearby water ways — good news for the millions of people who rely on those rivers and streams for drinking water. And by absorbing and storing more water, the land better withstands flood and drought alike.

Our grasslands evolved with large herbivore grazers, which created a perfect symbiosis of land and animal caring for each other. Just as bison did historically, cattle today maintain the land by pruning the grasses, aerating the soil, and fertilizing both. When cattle are managed in ways that strengthen grasses and soils, ranching communities and the wildlife that depend upon them thrive.

Healthy grasslands also serve as a check against climate change, pulling heat–trapping carbon dioxide out of the air and storing it in the soil. Research shows that improving grazing management practices on just one acre of grassland can pull an average of 419 extra pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere each year (though it varies greatly by region, conditions, and other variables).

Improving Soil Quality May Slow Global Warming  
Iqra Farooq, New Food | August 30, 2018
Researchers from the University of California have found that simple methods of improving soil quality could slow global warming. A new study from the University of California, Berkeley has found that low–tech methods of improving soil quality on farms could pull significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus slowing climate change.

Practises such as planting cover crops, sowing legumes and optimising grazing could, if instituted globally, pull carbon from the air and store it in the soil. The initial aim of the researchers was to determine whether practices like these could reduce global temperatures by at least 0.1 degree Celsius. They found that combining these techniques with vigorous carbon emission reductions meant that global temperatures could potentially reduce by 0.26 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

Major Leucaena Conference, Tour Program Coming to Brisbane
James Nason, BEEF Central | September 6, 2018
Practical knowledge gained from three decades of research and experience on how to grow and graze leucaena will be shared by world leading scientists, researchers and producers at a major international conference to run from October 29 to November 3.

The International Leucaena Conference 2018 will include a 2.5–day conference and producer forum at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, and a 3–day property tour program visiting several successful Leucaena grazing operations (producers interested in attending can view the website and register for the tour and/or conference here)

The last dedicated international conference to focus on leucaena was held in Vietnam in 1997.

7 Questions to Answer for Improved Grazing
Amanda Radke, BEEF Magazine | September 18, 2018
Of course, as beef producers, we are constantly working to improve our production practices in order to be more sustainable, more profitable and more successful in our endeavors. A key component of this equation is to be a better forage manager.

An On Pasture article titled, "Can cows save the planet? I don't know — but maybe they can save the ranch," discusses the steps producers can do now to be the best graziers possible.

Author John Marble writes, "Can cows save the planet? Can cows reverse global warming? Can cows sequester carbon and prevent erosion and fix habitat problems? Can cows feed the world? Honestly, I just don't know. These are big, complicated questions that seem to depend on a whole bunch of variables, things beyond my ability to suss out."

This is not the first time that it has been pointed out that a shift to exclusively grass–fed cattle would require an increase in the herd size, with concomitant increases in emissions. While they suggest that the only solution is a reduction in consumption, it seems clear to me that the solution is actually to ensure that we improve the sustainability of cattle in all production systems and make it clear to consumers that the most efficient farming systems are those where enterprises complement each other and work together in a more integrated way than today. This is incidentally regardless of consumption – integrated farming systems are more efficient anyway; consumption patterns are undoubtedly inequitable around the world and need to be improved, but this is not automatically a function of production patterns.
Nationwide Shift to Grass–Fed Beef Requires Larger Cattle Population
Matthew N Hayek and Rachael D Garrett, Environmental Research Letters | July 25, 2018
In the US, there is growing interest in producing more beef from cattle raised in exclusively pasture–based systems, rather than grain–finishing feedlot systems, due to the perception that it is more environmentally sustainable. In order to produce the same quantity of beef as the present–day system, we find that a nationwide shift to exclusively grass–fed beef would require increasing the national cattle herd from 77 to 100 million cattle, an increase of 30%.

Carbon Sequestration in Grassland Soils
Klaus Lorenz and Rattan Lal, Springer | June 1, 2018
Grasslands, including rangelands, shrublands, pastureland, and cropland sown with pasture and fodder crops, cover 35 million km2 or 26% of the global ice–free land area. Grasslands support the livelihoods of 1 billion people with pastoralism (rising of livestock) being the most widespread human land–use system globally with 20 million km2 of grassland used for livestock feed production. Grasslands have a high inherent SOC stock with up to 343 Pg SOC stored to 1 m depth with a sequestration rate of 0.5 Pg C yr−1. Grasslands sequester large amounts of SOC because of a high belowground C allocation, root turnover, and rhizodeposition.

Grassland Management Impacts on Soil Carbon Stocks: A New Synthesis
Richard T. Conant, Carlos E. P. Cerri, Brooke B. Osborne and Keith Paustian, Ecological Society of America | March 07, 2017
A synthesis published in 2001 assembled data from hundreds of studies to document soil carbon responses to changes in management. Here we present a new synthesis that has integrated data from the hundreds of studies published after our previous work. These new data largely confirm our earlier conclusions: improved grazing management, fertilization, sowing legumes and improved grass species, irrigation, and conversion from cultivation all tend to lead to increased soil C, at rates ranging from 0.105 to more than 1 Mg C·ha−1·yr−1.

The new data include assessment of three new management practices: fire, silvopastoralism, and reclamation, although these studies are limited in number.

The main area in which the new data are contrary to our previous synthesis is in conversion from native vegetation to grassland, where we find that across the studies the average rate of soil carbon stock change is low and not significant. The data in this synthesis confirm that improving grassland management practices and conversion from cropland to grassland improve soil carbon stocks.

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Scaling for Good: Can McDonald's Raise the Bar for Sustainable Food?
Tom Murray, Forbes | September 13. 2018
Let's turn back the clock to 1990. It was a milestone year for McDonald's, as the company opened its first restaurants in Moscow, mainland China and Chile. It was also when the largest restaurant company in the world joined forces with Environmental Defense Fund to launch a groundbreaking partnership that would find ways to reduce McDonald's solid waste. The results? $6 million in savings, more than 300 million pounds of packaging eliminated, and 1 million tons of corrugated boxes recycled.

2018 is shaping up to be a big year for McDonald's too, with a packaging waste goal set in January and an announcement to reduce emissions across its supply chain in March. Led by Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer Francesca DeBiase, McDonald's has raised the corporate leadership bar with these ambitious sustainability targets. But now, the difficult and complex work of meeting these goals begins.

I caught up with Francesca ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit this week to ask her about what the roadmap to meeting these goals looks like, and how they'll collaborate with their suppliers and the industry to prioritize action on the areas where McDonald's has the biggest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including responsible beef production

Startup Smartbow Monitors Cattle Health with Digital Ear Tags  
Hans–Peter Siebenhaar, Handelsblatt Global | September 1, 2018
Smartbow makes ear tags that give farmers real–time information about their dairy cows. It's a market with incredible growth potential, which is why a former US unit of Pfizer took over the Austrian startup.

Austrian software developer Wolfgang Auer inherited a farm from his grandfather and took the opportunity to fuse his two occupations by creating a smart ear tag that pinpoints his cows' location while monitoring their health and digestion.

His startup, Smartbow, has sold some 100,000 tags and in 2017 sold the business to US animal health firm Zoetis, a former unit of Pfizer. Zoetis reported sales of $5.3 billion last year and has sniffed out a rapidly growing business with global potential.

I will participate in the NIAA Antibiotic Symposium in Overland Park, Kansas in November, where we will discuss GRSB's antimicrobial stewardship statement, and possibilities for further collaboration next year.
New Antibiotic Initiative Announced at UN Assembly, and What It Means for Producers
Hoard's Dairyman, NIAA News Release | September 27, 2017
US officials called on global leaders this week to unite against what the government calls one of the greatest threats to public health — antimicrobial resistance, or AMR.

During the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar laid out plans for the most far–reaching initiative to date, "The AMR Challenge."

HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will lead the worldwide initiative to slow antibiotic resistance, a growing concern in the scientific community. Azar invited representatives of the human, animal and environmental health communities to collaborate on measures from new vaccine development to improved antibiotics use and environmental measures.

"The AMR Challenge thrusts an important spotlight on antibiotic resistance, a core issue for members of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture," says Katie Ambrose, CEO of NIAA, an organization founded in 2000 by livestock producers and representatives working to eradicate disease, promote safe food and establish best practices for animal health.

Jeroen van de Ven, global head of ruminants for Merck Animal Health, is part of the One Health approach and says AMR is gaining the increasing attention of American consumers.

M Bovis 'Reinforces the Need' for Biosecurity Plan  
Radio New Zealand | September 28, 2018
More than half of beef farmers have made changes to reduce the risk of their stock becoming infected by Mycoplasma bovis, according to Beef and Lamb New Zealand.

Just more than half of the 770 farmers surveyed reported they had taken precautions against M bovis, while 71 percent of farmers felt they had a good understanding of how to protect their stock from the disease.

Changes included an increased focus on yard hygiene and the implementation of buffer zones between neighbouring stock – while some farmers were not buying any calves or cattle this year because of concerns about the infection.

McDonald's USA Reveals Changes to Its Classic Burgers  
McDonald's News | September 26, 2018
McDonald's USA announced today that its classic burgers have no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavors and no added colors from artificial sources. The pickle contains an artificial preservative, and customers are able to skip it if they prefer. These ingredient changes affect all 14,000 U.S. restaurants, marking this the next major milestone in McDonald's food journey and another way the company is helping customers feel good about the food they're enjoying.

The classic burgers include the hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, McDouble, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Big Mac.

"From switching to 100% fresh beef* in our quarter–pound burgers, cooked right when ordered, to removing artificial preservatives in our Chicken McNuggets, and committing to cage–free eggs by 2025, we have made significant strides in evolving the quality of our food," said Chris Kempczinski, McDonald's USA President. "We know quality choices are important to our customers, and this latest positive change to our classic burgers demonstrates our committed journey to leading with the customer and building a better McDonald's."

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With a slow start to the growing season due to a late cold winter, and exceptionally dry weather from spring onwards, many Irish farmers have had to destock this year, or face very expensive fodder prices. This has put beef producers in a precarious situation. While the actual price paid for beef carcases is up on the same time last year, it's clear that costs of production are also up considerably.
Where's The Beef? Supermac's Boss Demands Fairer Deal for Farmers  
Claire Fox, Farm Ireland | September 18 2018
Fast food giant Supermac's has warned its Irish meat suppliers not to look for price increases unless they agree to pass the benefits back to farmers.

Supermac's owner Pat McDonagh said meat costs have increased "year on year" but the "price being paid to the farmer is decreasing".

Any upcoming price increase that Supermac's was being asked to pay for beef needed to be given directly to the farmer, he said.

"Supermac's will do its duty in supporting our farmers and we would ask that the factories do the same by passing the benefit of the increase on to farmers," Mr McDonagh told the Farming Independent.

New Zealand Sheep Flock Decline Continues
Robert Herrmann, North Queensland Register | September 5. 2018
Across the ditch dairy is now "king".

However the switch from sheep to beef cattle also continues with Beef and Lamb New Zealand forecasting further growth in the beef herd at the expense of sheep and lamb.

At a time when Asian demand for sheep meat is on the rise, the reduction in supply from our only real international trade competitor is helping support Australian lamb and sheep prices.

Australian Meat Industry Welcomes Indonesian Deal
Aidan Fortune, Global Meat News | September 4, 2018
The Australian livestock and red meat industry has welcomed the Australian and Indonesian Governments' announcement that negotiations for the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA–CEPA) have concluded.

Chair of the industry's IA–CEPA taskforce David Foote said that Indonesia was a "vitally important customer"​ for significant quantities of Australian live cattle, beef and offal and had a steady requirement for sheep meat, albeit smaller volumes.

"IA–CEPA will not only deliver additional trade liberalisation by building on the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) outcomes, it will also provide a framework for a more market–orientated import regime. This, in turn, will deliver benefits for both our sector as well as the Indonesian supply chain – including importers, retailers and foodservice operators,"​ he said.

"IA–CEPA is a most welcome addition to the suite of FTAs the Australian Government has concluded to date with key trading partners​."

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