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

Executive Director's Message:

Thank you to all those who joined our latest webinar on land conversion and particularly the presenters who made it an interesting and useful discussion. The topic is both of critical importance to the beef industry and very complex.

I personally think that we could organise a series of webinars on a variety of aspects of land conversion alone in different parts of the world. One of the suggestions that was made in the webinar was to have a system by which to verify conversion free production. I believe that these already exist in different countries, and that national roundtables are always in the best position to undertake benchmarking or recognition of programmes in their own country.

It is equally important that we do not reduce sustainability to one or two aspects. The reason that we defined sustainability holistically when we started were that ignoring elements of the definition, we do not achieve sustainability at all, and in fact risk unintended consequences. Clearly a standard that only focuses on conversion is unacceptable when it does not address indigenous land rights, slavery or indentured labour, and this is why GRSB cannot endorse any standard that does not embrace all of our principles.

You can find a recording of the webinar here, and we will be circulating a report in due course.

View June 25, 2020 Webinar
“Bridging Deforestation and Legal Compliance in the Beef Value Chain: From Constructive Debate to Practical Solutions”
(Password grsbeef2020)


July Webinar:
Animal Wellbeing

July's webinar will focus on Animal Wellbeing; one of the goals we are setting this year is on animal welfare, and we have had the assistance of Lily Edwards Calloway from Colorado State University to produce a technical summary around the approaches being used around the world to quantify beef cattle welfare. Our webinar will explore this theme along with the practical steps that are being taken in different regions to improve wellbeing; as we have in other webinars we are assembling a panel of experts drawn from our membership or closely related to our national roundtable members.

August  Webinar:

In August we will be looking in more detail at tools for improving and demonstrating sustainability. I use the term tools in a broad sense – it can of course refer to specific technologies that are used to enhance management effectiveness or to improve understanding of the impact of a management intervention. However "tool" could also refer to practices including grazing management, breeding or genetics etc.

The focus will once again be on how we can use these tools to meet the goals we are setting, and to demonstrate that we are doing so, thus at this stage we will be looking at GHGs, land conversion and animal wellbeing, but even for those three there are many tools available and huge potential for improved sustainability.

I have recently heard the sentiment expressed more than once that "sustainability" is not good enough, based on the logic that sustaining a system that has caused problems in the past cannot be the recipe for a successful future. While I can understand the sentiment, I do object to this argument. It is essentially a semantic argument, not one based on our definition of vision and mission, "We envision a world where beef is a trusted part of a thriving food system in which the beef value chain is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable."

The GRSB mission is to advance, support, and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability of the global beef value chain through leadership, science, and multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration." This holistic definition speaks of the interrelated components that are required to be sustainable as well as calling for continuous improvement. This definition in no way calls for a maintenance of the status quo. To me, criticism of the word used is a distraction from the work that needs to be done, and particularly when all of us benefit from the sort of improvements that we are calling for.

We are in the process of hiring an organisation to help with the process of developing our goals. The firm is to be hired to facilitate the process and to ensure that the opinions of our full range of stakeholders are adequately captured and represented. Each of the them groups has now produced a technical summary for the development of the respective goals.

The council has made a final selection for a communications agency to help finalise and implement our communications strategy. This will be discussed by the Executive Committee this week.

Following two webinars the subgroup on methodologies has developed a draft guidance on GWP*, which will be shared with members for reactions.

In addition we will circulate a paper on FAO's LEAP & GLEAM

The subgroup on sequestration is collecting papers on projects and research findings for the role of beef production systems in soil carbon sequestration. If you have been involved in projects related to this, please share any materials with either me ) or Josefina.

Another area that we would like to look at going forward is enteric methane reductions – through the various tools that are available including genetics, grazing management, feed etc.

The webinar mentioned above followed an earlier Brazil / China dialogue with the Tropical Forest Alliance and organisations in China and Brazil to discuss the potential for China to create a demand pull for sustainably sourced beef from Brazil. The group will also continue to work on the further development of the goal on land conversion, and meets once a month.

Future meetings of all working groups will be listed on the GRSB member page calendar.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
June 30, 2020

Please see a summary of all meetings, calls and webinars on our event calendar in the member area of the website.

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