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


Executive Director's Message

Few of you will have missed the news over the past two weeks about fires burning in the Amazon. While we certainly regret the destruction of this critically important resource in terms of biodiversity, and in terms of the carbon that is being released in the fires, we need to put the recent media frenzy into perspective.

The Forbes article below quotes Dan Nepstad from Earth Innovation Institute, an important campaigner for the protection of the Amazon and a GRSB member. Note that nothing in the article denies that there are fires in the Amazon, or suggests that they are not of concern, just that the media response now is not proportional to the media response over time. Furthermore, this media response and the ensuing international outcry from celebrities and politicians have been more likely to alienate and annoy the Brazilian government.

However, I feel that the article probably comes across less constructively than it could have done. In the end, neither inaccurate reporting nor telling people that they are foolish for believing inaccurate reporting will put out fires in the Amazon.

Fortunately for most of us, that is not something that we will ever have to do – but for the Amazon, it is extremely fortunate that there are well trained firefighters working for organisations such as Aliança da terra who do exactly that, year after year. The most practical thing we can all do is to support the organisations that work on the ground both in directly combating fires, and working with producers to ensure that fewer fires start in the first place.

Since Dan Nepstad wrote a blog post recently on what we can do which is far more insightful than I could be on the topic, I will start by quoting that and urging you to read it and take note of the positive steps we can take.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Amazon Fires

Amazon Fires: What We Know and What We Can Do
Daniel Nepstad, Ph.D., Earth Innovation Institute | August 23, 2019
"The biggest threat to the Amazon forest is large–scale displacement by scrub vegetation driven by increasingly frequent extreme drought events and associated forest fire. During years of normal rainfall, the Amazon forest extends like a giant firebreak across the landscape. Fires set by landholders to improve grass cover in cattle pastures or to burn felled trees in preparation for crops or pasture are usually extinguished when they reach the floor of neighboring forests, where the damp layer of leaves, twigs and branches in the forest's deep shade does not readily burn.

But that same fire resistance of the forest is lost during years of severe drought, when the forest's fuel layer dries out. And when the fuel layer catches fire, the likelihood of another fire becomes greater, as we explain below. As the forest burns repeatedly, grasses invade, and a once fire–resistant forest can be replaced by fire–prone scrub vegetation, as we described recently for our long–term forest fire experiment in Mato Grosso…" READ MORE

Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It's The 'Lungs Of The World,' Is Wrong
Michael Shellenberger, Forbes | August 26, 2019
The increase in fires burning in Brazil set off a storm of international outrage last week. Celebrities, environmentalists, and political leaders blame Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for destroying the world's largest rainforest, the Amazon, which they say is the "lungs of the world."

While the number of fires in 2019 is indeed 80% higher than in 2018, it's just 7% higher than the average over the last 10 years ago,said Dan Nepstad of Earth Innovation Institute. One of Brazil's leading environmental journalists agrees that media coverage of the fires has been misleading. "It was under [Workers Party President] Lula and [Environment Secretary] Marina Silva (2003–2008) that Brazil had the highest incidence of burning," Leonardo Coutinho told me over email. "But neither Lula nor Marina was accused of putting the Amazon at risk."

Coutinho's perspective was shaped by reporting on the ground in the Amazon for Veja, Brazil's leading news magazine, for nearly a decade. By contrast, many of the correspondents reporting on the fires have been doing so from the cosmopolitan cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are 2,500 miles and four hours by jet plane away.

"What is happening in the Amazon is not exceptional," said Coutinho. "Take a look at Google web searches search for 'Amazon' and 'Amazon Forest' over time. Global public opinion was not as interested in the 'Amazon tragedy' when the situation was undeniably worse. The present moment does not justify global hysteria."

And while fires in Brazil have increased, there is no evidence that Amazon forest fires have. READ MORE

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Progressive Beef Recognized by the US Roundtable as Sustainable Beef Industry Leader
High Plains Journal | August 19, 2019
Progressive Beef, a cattle management and sustainability program for feedlot operators, is one of the first programs to be recognized by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef for being an industry leader in sustainable beef production. The Progressive Beef program continues to grow: In 2020, there will be more than three million head marketed. Currently 48 yards are certified or in the process of becoming certified and participation has doubled in the last year.

Better Grazing for Beef Sustainability: Focus on Improving Grass Utilisation
Farmers Guardian Sponsored by McDonald's
Well managed grassland has the potential to help beef producers achieve better returns, but is an often overlooked resource.

To tackle this issue, McDonald's is embarking on a 'Better Grazing' project, which aims to improve the sustainability of beef systems through improved grass utilisation.

Alice Willett, agricultural consultant at McDonald's, says the goal is to promote beef sustainability, which is 'why we are working closely with farmers and beef suppliers to support the development of industry resources and disseminate agricultural and scientific expertise'.

Conservation Finds a Home on the Range
Rimbey Review | Aug. 19, 2019
Hot on the trail of its work with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) are teaming up to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable beef production and to advance wetland and grassland conservation.

For decades, Canadian cattle producers have made conservation part of their operations, and presently, these efforts to conserve wetlands and grasslands are setting new standards for beef sustainability on working landscapes. This scenario places DUC and ABP in a unique position where they will work together to implement varying tactics that result in positive contributions towards issues relating to climate change, environmental protection, consumer demands and global markets. It's a perfect fit..

New Allflex Herd Monitoring System a First for Tasmania
The Weekly Times | Subscription Needed
Technology is being used to tackle some key herd management challenges on a North-West Tasmanian dairy farm. The Nichols family run a 1300 cows operation near Smithton and they are the first farm in the state to install an Allflex Heat Time Pro Plus electronic monitoring system.

The system, which uses electronic collars on the cows, can provide information about individual animals including heat detection and changes in rumination. It can also provide emergency distress notifications, which can be sent directly to a smartphone.

Harvey's Sourcing Canadian Certified Sustainable Beef
Jessica Giles, HighRiver Online | August 26, 2019
Harvey's Restaurants is joining McDonald's Canada in serving up sustainable beef to its customers. They've partnered with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) to source at least 30 per cent of the beef for its original burger from farms and ranches certified according to the Roundtable's standards.

The multi–stakeholder Roundtable launched their Certified Sustainable Beef Framework back in 2017, which is a voluntary audit and certification program allowing participating members of the supply chain to make sustainability claims in the areas of being economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible. Any food product with the CRSB logo shows the beef has made its way through a fully certified sustainable supply chain.

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'Some Improvement' in Cattle and Beef Industry Transparency, Says ACCC
Beef Central | August 20, 2019
The cattle and beef industry has taken some steps towards improving transparency in dealings between processers and livestock producers, but more work is needed, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has noted.

In 2017, the ACCC published its Cattle and Beef Market Study, which made 15 recommendations to address concerns about a lack of transparency and other issues in Australia's cattle and beef markets. Similar concerns were raised in a Senate Inquiry into Meat Processing at the time. An update report published by ACCC in May last year reported a disappointing lack of progress on the commission's recommendations.

Following the update report, a number of cattle and beef processors have begun publishing their price grids online. Beef Central now provides links to publicly–accessible grids for Teys Australia, NH Foods, Bindaree Beef and Thomas Foods International via this portal. Other large processors, including JBS Australia, Kilcoy Global Foods, Greenhams, Midfield and others, continue to provide access to grids on a supplier request–only basis.

Scottish Beef Sector 'on Brink of Collapse' as Prices Drop
Kevin Keane, BBC News | August 21, 2019
Scotland's beef sector is on the brink of collapse due to depressed prices, according to a leading figure in the Scottish farming union. Gary Christie, of NFU Scotland, said the slump is preventing some farmers covering the cost of rearing cattle. He told the BBC Irish beef, stockpiled ahead of Brexit, is already being drip–fed into the system.

The Scottish government said it would do everything within its power to support farmers during turbulent times. Mr Christie, who is north east livestock chairman for NFU Scotland, said herds were now being shrunk as farmers move away from beef.

'The Reforms We Asked for Have Not Been Delivered' – Beef Plan
Breifne O'Brien, Agriland | Aug 21, 2019
The fundamental reforms of the beef industry that were asked for in the beef talks "have not been delivered,' according to the Beef Plan Movement. Progress was made on a number of individual points; however, the overall dysfunctional model remains and farmers remain vulnerable and open to exploitation.

Continuing, the statement from the Beef Plan said: "The question about where the money has gone was not addressed. "Consumers are paying the same or more, and farmers are payed considerably less. Either processors or retailers are benefiting at farmers' expense."

It was agreed that Bord Bia will develop a beef market price index model. Members were informed in the message that it was also agreed that an independent grocery regulator is required.

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