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

Executive Director's Message:

There are a lot of very positive stories about beef sustainability. In particular, the roundtable network has become a focal point for the collation and sharing of concrete sustainability projects.

See the roundtable sites below to see a wide range of projects working on all aspects of sustainability.

National producer associations and organisations are also promoting sustainability as a solution to problems rather than a threat, and we have concrete examples of tremendous progress being made in different areas in e.g. producing more with positive impacts. Getting these stories in front of organisations that influence public opinion and policy can only be a positive move, and I believe will start to balance what has up to now been a tide of negative news against beef.

 As CRSB has done for Canada, I would be keen to build a sustainability project inventory, to document and showcase the breadth and volume of beef improvement projects globally; not only can this increase awareness of change that is already taking place, but can help identify opportunities for areas that may not yet have embarked upon the sustainability journey.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
February 25, 2020

Lamb and Beef Producers Showcase Welfare And Sustainability Cred

Sheep Central | February 21, 2020

Lamb and beef producers feature in a series of new on-farm videos designed to showcase the Australian industries’ strong environmental, social and animal welfare credentials to consumers. The 11 videos produced by Meat & Livestock Australia for its Australian Good Meat program feature beef and lamb producers sharing their own stories about how they care for their animals and natural resources.

MLA chief marketing and communications officer, Lisa Sharp, said the producer-led videos have been released to engage consumers around how red meat is produced in sustainable, high welfare systems. “Australian livestock producers care about their animals and the environment in which they’re raised. The reality is their livelihoods depend on a thriving environment, healthy ecosystems and good animal health and welfare,” Ms Sharp said. “This new suite of videos transport viewers on to the farms of red meat producers as they explain their approaches to consistently producing the clean, green and safe red meat for which Australia is renowned.”

NCBA, Agriculture Groups Launch Farmers for a Sustainable Future

Tri-State Livestock News | February 19, 2020

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) today joined 20 other national agricultural groups in kicking off Farmers for a Sustainable Future, a coalition of ag organizations committed to environmental and economic sustainability. The coalition was introduced at a news conference on Capitol Hill today.

“Today’s launch of the Farmers for a Sustainable Future (FSF) is a defining moment,” said NCBA Vice President, Government Affairs, Ethan Lane, who spoke at today’s rollout event in Washington. “Twenty-one agricultural groups — which represent the vast majority of the agricultural industry in our country — are standing side by side in unity to correct a false narrative that has haunted us for as long as I can remember. We’re here because we support incentivizing innovation, science-based research, resilient infrastructure, and focusing on outcomes.”

Other members of the Farmers for a Sustainable Future coalition include the American Farm Bureau Federation, USA Rice, American Sugar Alliance, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Pork Producers Council.

Ag Has Potential to Mitigate Climate Change, Improve Water Quality

Kenosha News | February 19, 2020

Farming systems that build healthy soil by keeping the land covered in vegetation year-round have the potential to lower the net greenhouse gas emissions produced by Minnesota’s crops and livestock by as much as 30% while cutting nitrogen pollution by up to 45%, according to a white paper released last month by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP).

“Farming to Capture Carbon & Address Climate Change Through Building Soil Health,” which is based on an analysis of the scientific literature related to soil health and climate change, as well as interviews with Minnesota farmers, makes several policy recommendations for the current session of the Minnesota Legislature and beyond, including increased funding for initiatives that promote and support soil-building farming systems. The paper also makes federal policy recommendations.

“Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also key to helping us mitigate climate change while making us resilient in the face of its impacts, both here in Minnesota and across the country,” said LSP’s George Boody, who authored the paper as a part of LSP’s Bridge to Soil Health initiative. “In fact, improving soil health in ways that lead to long-term storage of carbon and storing carbon in vegetation are currently the most viable ways on land to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”

California’s Dairy Farms Reach Major Milestone In Reducing Methane Emissions

Claire McCormack, Agriland Ireland | Feb 17, 2020

California’s dairy farms will soon be more than halfway to achieving the state’s world-leading target for reducing methane.

Speaking to AgriLand last month, Dr. Frank Mitloehner – a professor and air quality specialist at the University of California in the city of Davis – highlighted the game-changing emission reduction strides being achieved in the state, which is the largest agricultural state in the US.

With pressure and debate mounting over Irish agriculture’s carbon footprint, this publication decided to find out how California’s farmers, and its agricultural agencies, are collaborating to achieve this landmark – without losing a single livestock unit.

Bringing the Farmer to Your Classroom: Australian Good Meat Provides Tech-Savvy Excursions

Education HQ | February 17, 2020

The Australian Good Meat Virtual Classroom program provides primary aged students from all around Australia with an exciting opportunity to interact directly with Beef, Lamb and Goat farmers via live video stream.

Students learn how Australian farmers produce high quality red meat ethically and sustainably while taking part in Q&A’s, educational activities, quizzes and even interacting with other schools.

Each 45 minute class is guided by a qualified teacher and tailored to the guest farmer of the day, where students learn about the Australian red meat industry, including how farmers look after their animals and pants on their farm in the varied climatic conditions and how technology is used to ensure farms are run efficiently and sustainably.

This curriculum linked program is designed by qualified educators to aid the study of agriculture in a fun, interactive and engaging way, addressing curriculum outcomes in Science, Technology, Health and Physical Education across the primary age group.

Beef Cattle Genetics, Management Critical in Fine Tuning Herds to Fit Environment

Pampas News | February 15, 2020

Matching cattle to the land available to graze and the nutrition it offers is critical in optimizing production in an operation. Jason Smith, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist, Amarillo, who is frequently contacted to help with problems cattle operators are having, was a speaker at the recent Southwest Beef Symposium in Amarillo. “More often than not, as a nutritionist, I’m called in to fix a situation where the cattle and environment are not matched,” Smith said.

He explained how cattle selection and the operation’s environment feed off one another. Without balance, one will take away from the other. It’s important to know both what the cattle will need as well as what the land can offer. Smith also stressed how important it is to keep records to document progress and problems.

I have some extensive foreign travel in the next few weeks; perhaps because of that my curiosity on the subject of coronavirus has been piqued; as always, Rabobank has grounded economic analysis to cut through the headlines.

Coronavirus and Agriculture – How Worried Should We Be?

Rabobank | February 11, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak is already having a severe impact on China’s foodservice and on-trade channels and this could become “more serious and longer-lasting” if the virus is not contained in the next six to eight weeks, leading agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank has warned.

But the extent of the impact on Australia’s agricultural sector will be limited in the short-term and will depend on how quickly the virus is contained, it says.

In a just-released report by the bank’s China-based research team, Recent Coronavirus Impacts on Chinese F&A, Rabobank says “disruptions are being experienced across the entire F&A (food and agri) supply chain” with the virus – which has infected more than 40,000 people to date – disrupting trade, production and supply chains as well as having a significant impact on out-of-home food consumption with the closure of many foodservice outlets.

With the virus outbreak arriving at the peak of 2020 Chinese New Year activities, it has had a large impact on out-of-home dining in the country, the report says.

“Given what we have seen on the ground, along with news received from major chains – for example, the closure of stores by Starbucks, Haidilao, McDonald’s, and Yum China – potential revenue losses for both retail and foodservice for the Chinese New Year week could range from 20 per cent to 80 per cent”. A loss of between USD 31 billion to USD 124 billion across retail and foodservice, it says.

While the report says a quick and effective containment of the virus could lead to a rapid bounce-back, the longer the virus is uncontained beyond March, the more extensive, sustained and structural the impact will be on the F&A chain.

See also: Economic implications of the coronavirus

On the recurring theme of methane – an interesting paper analyses the likely contribution of anthropogenic sources, and finds that the contribution of fossil fuels is much higher than previously reported:

Climate Crisis: Fossil Fuels’ Impact On Planet ‘Vastly Underestimated’

Harry Cockburn, Independent UK | February 21, 2020

The oil, gas and coal industries are emitting “vastly” more of the potent greenhouse gas methane than was previously thought, and curbing these emissions could provide rapid benefits to the planet, a study has found. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second biggest contributor to global warming, and levels in the atmosphere have increased by about 150 per cent since the industrial revolution.

Though there is less of it than CO2, methane’s greenhouse effect is around 80 times more potent. And unlike CO2, which can remain in the Earth’s atmosphere for around a century after it is emitted, methane lasts for less than a decade, meaning the impacts of reduction could be felt relatively quickly. “If we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today, high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would still persist for a long time,” said University of Rochester researcher Benjamin Hmiel. “Methane is important to study because if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly.”

See the journal article in Nature here


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