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


Executive Director's Message

After our recent tour in Mississippi, I have been looking out for more positive stories about the benefits of good grazing management for producers, the soil and the environment at large – one of the articles below is from New Zealand, but there are many more, and increasing amounts of peer reviewed science to back it up. See this article by Richard Teague and colleagues, for example.

The mainstream media and, of course, the mainstream users of social media have not yet caught up to this, and as climate change grabs more and more of the headlines we continue to see more and more people repeating the story that ruminants are the cause and that not eating meat is the solution.

Let me be categorical – that is simply not true (listen to Dr Frank Mitloehner on the subject here). All of human activity has impacts and above all our use of fossil fuels impact on atmosphere as do deforestation and other forms of land conversion. I believe strongly that the agricultural sector and food industry as a whole does need to invest far more in getting clear messages out and in front of the public on a daily basis in creative ways that people can understand and relate to (remember this one?).

This is not a flash in the pan, and the more that people empathise with campaigners such as Greta Thunberg, and mistakenly believe that the solution is to stop eating meat, the more we will need to do this.

Of course, feeding a growing planet will always call for creative solutions and our growing populations need choice and access to protein – see the ILRI story below on the need for more animal protein to support health diets in poorer countries. We need to maintain choice in global diets; part of that includes accepting that newer plant based proteins are also something that some consumers want. We may not all want it, and the biggest promoters of plant–based protein make some far fetched claims for it, but we must accept that as long as they are as successful as they currently are at selling the idea to consumers, there will be demand.

As you may have seen, today McDonald's® announced that they will be testing a new plant–based burger, made with a Beyond Meat® plant–based patty, called the P.L.T. This test will be in selected restaurants in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, starting next week and will last for 12 weeks.

We have seen the demand grow for plant–based options. McDonald's, like others in the food industry, wants to continue to innovate their menu and to learn more about customer demand for additional product offerings.

Regardless of this test, we know McDonald's is and will always be a proud burger company and their beef burgers are some of their most iconic menu items. As such, the critical work we do together at GRSB remains a key business priority for McDonald's. McDonald's will always be committed to partnering with the beef industry to ensure their customers can continue to feel good about eating their beef long into the future.

I know McDonald's will keep us informed about the outcomes from the test.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director

Grazing for Healthy Soils

Here Are Three Farmers Who Are Taking Action on Climate Change
Rebecca Black, Stuff NZ | September 17, 2019
Waikato dairy farmer Christopher Falconer is parked up on his farm looking out over the wetlands as he talks about mitigating the effects of climate change. "I don't make climate change–based decisions for what we do on–farm. I don't. But as it happens, there's a great deal of overlap between what is good for the climate, and what is good for all sorts of other things." Take riparian planting, the practice of growing plants alongside waterways.

The goal is to mitigate nutrient loss and subsidence and stream bank erosion, but it's also an effective carbon capture. With nearly half of New Zealand's greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under scrutiny and some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. But by making climate change action part of their everyday work, three farmers says the rewards speak for themselves.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Global Trends in Antimicrobial Resistance in Animals in Low– and Middle–Income Countries
Science | September 20, 2019
The global scale–up in demand for animal protein is the most notable dietary trend of our time. Since 2000, meat production has plateaued in high–income countries but has grown by 68%, 64%, and 40% in Asia, Africa, and South America, respectively. The transition to high–protein diets in low– and middle–income countries (LMICs) has been facilitated by the global expansion of intensive animal production systems in which antimicrobials are used routinely to maintain health and productivity.

Global maps of AMR (available at resistancebank.org) show hotspots of resistance in northeastern India, northeastern China, northern Pakistan, Iran, eastern Turkey, the south coast of Brazil, Egypt, the Red River delta in Vietnam, and the areas surrounding Mexico City and Johannesburg.

In regions where resistance is starting to emerge, there is a window of opportunity to limit the rise of resistance by encouraging a transition to sustainable animal farming practices.

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The Future of Farming Requires Banks Leading
Wiebe Draije, IB Times | September 22, 2019
It is a challenging time to be part of the food and land use value chain. We live in a world where a third of all food produced is wasted, at a cost of over a trillion dollars a year to the global economy. At the same time, more than 800 million people still go to bed hungry each day and food insecurity is rising, disproportionately affecting women and farmers. More than three–quarters of global poverty is now concentrated in rural areas, where smallholders struggle to get access to finance or the tools they need to operate sustainably.

Bullish On Meat: Elanco CEO Says Healthy Animals Are Crucial for Solving World Problems
Mitchell Kirk, Greenfield Reporter | September 20, 2019
Healthy animals will be key to sustaining the world's population, says Jeff Simmons. The CEO of Elanco thinks the development of plant–based proteins —touted lately in a number of fast–food offerings — will play a role in feeding the world. But they will never replace meat in our diets, he says. Those sentiments are behind the company's corporate social responsibility network called Elanco's Healthy Purpose.

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'Alt Meats' Are Not the Answer for Poorer Countries  
Susan Macmillan, ILRI News | September 18, 2019
It is time we recognized the vital role livestock plays across the world's developing economies. Excitement about alternative meat and dairy products is exploding. Lab–grown or plant–based, animal–free substitutes are being held up as a panacea to overcome the negative environmental and health impacts associated with the world's livestock systems.

But that assumption rests on the skewed perspectives of North Americans and western Europeans—and misses a big part of the story. In many developing countries and less affluent economies, animal–source food is less a consumer product than a vital source of income, food and livelihood. For the one in 10 people living on less than $2 a day, 'alt–meats' are unlikely to be a viable dietary solution for the simple reason that most people would be unable to access or afford them. (More in this twitter thread.)

Forward Together: Co–Operation Essential to Meet Global Climate Challenges
Professor Wayne Powell; Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, The Scotsman | September 19, 2019
The UK imports nearly half of its food. If we replace meat in our diet with food that damages the environment in its country of origin, then we have simply shifted the burden elsewhere, on to nations that may be less able to adopt sustainable practices. It therefore seems more sensible to promote sustainable livestock production (which can also be known as "ruminant agriculture") on land that cannot be used for other purposes, as efficiently as possible, with the consequent benefits to the local environment, people and rural economies.

Therefore those of us who help to shape a thriving rural economy have a responsibility to ensure that our response is evidence–based and fit for purpose. It is not a simple task. Populations will continue to rise, so we need to produce more food securely and sustainably, while simultaneously reducing the effect of this production on our shared environment.

Farmer Protests End Outside Factories – But Meat Industry Says 100,000 Cattle in Backlog
The Journal ie | September 23, 2019
Over 100,000 cattle have been backed up in processing due to protests outside meat plants around the country in recent weeks, according to Meat Industry Ireland (MII). The group says blockades have been removed from beef processing facilities across the country and some processing has recommenced in the plants. Beef processing will likely be fully operational again later this week and sheep processing has already begun in plants in the west of Ireland.

Farming Minister George Eustice Agrees to Beef Crisis Meeting with Union Bosses
Ben Barnett, The Yorkshire Post | September 22, 2019
Farming Minister George Eustice has made a commitment to meet with union bosses over concerns about the worsening crisis in the beef sector. In an attempt to reassurance farmers, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was monitoring prices and volumes in all UK agricultural sectors and that it was working hard to ensure UK beef exports to the European Union will continue post–Brexit.

Did COOL Impact the Price/Demand Relationship for Beef?
Nevil Speer, BEEF Magazine, | September 17, 2019
The new USMCA (U.S., Mexico, Canada) trade agreement – often referred to as NAFTA 2.0 – has been a key topic in the news of late as Congress returns to work following the August recess. Clearly, it has large implications for all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, it's spurred efforts by some in the industry to campaign once again for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL). That is, they believe that COOL should be part of the final agreement. Much of that argument is based upon the argument that COOL was beneficial for the cattle market. And proponents always point to the price run in '13, '14 and '15 as supportive evidence.

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