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

Executive Director's Message:

Happy New Year! I would like to start by wishing all GRSB members the very best in 2021. I hope that you had a peaceful holiday season and are refreshed for the challenges this year will bring.

Going straight to the challenges ahead, you will recall that I talked about the UN Food Systems Summit coming up this year.

Our first webinar of the year "BEING HERD: From COP to G20, How to Effect Change on a Global Level" will take place on January the 28th (19:00 UTC) and will cover the importance of proactively and constructively engaging in these global discussions that contribute to shaping policy and opinion on the role that meat production plays in climate, biodiversity and food systems. We believe that GRSB needs to channel communications on the industry's positive contribution to a thriving food system.

This year will see a number of these important international forums run by the UN and others such as WEF, G20 etc discussing the future of food. There are also the two major COP processes – climate and biodiversity, which will undoubtedly cover beef production.

Without active and constructive participation at these events, the beef industry risks allowing the signal being sent to legislators that we have no defence against the concerns being brought by detractors such as EAT Lancet and others. We need to be there to show what the beef industry is doing to bring about positive change and continue to produce much needed high quality protein.

The webinar panel will include a range of GRSB members involved with these international processes who will bring a sense of why they matter to the wider industry and all of our members. The session will be moderated by Engine MHP who have been developing our communications strategy with us over the last several months, and who will also discuss how GRSB and our members can collaborate to communicate effectively in these events.

Our Global Conference "Powering Sustainable Beef" will be taking place on April 13th and 14th, 2021 and will be the public launch of our global goals.

The format will be all new, online and allow participants to build their own itinerary from both live and on demand content. Live sessions will be repeated with Q&A twice, so that members all over the world have the chance to participate at the time most convenient to them. All materials will be available to participants on demand after the conclusion of the conference.

Being online has some real advantages for both attendees and presenters. Content that is not easy to share at live events, such as videos from field locations, will give more insight into what is happening on farms and ranches around the world. Attendees will be able to build a schedule around their specific interests and time zone, while not having the time and expense of travel to attend.

While we recognise that we will miss the personal interaction that we all value so much from live events, we are working with our service provider to provide opportunities to interact through the online platform. The creation of virtual booths, for example, may allow attendees to discuss directly with sponsor companies and national roundtables.

Details of the full range of sponsorship opportunities will be available from Katie Ambrose shortly.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
January 12, 2021

The articles from around the world presented below are recent and represent opinions that are either widespread or likely to gain currency in the coming year's discussions:

Opinion: The UN Food Systems Summit, 2021
By Marshall Matz  |   Agri Pulse  |  January 5, 2021

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, announced on World Food Day, October 16, 2019 that he would host a Food Systems Summit in 2021 with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach consistent with UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The Summit will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable, and equitable food systems.

The second of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals is to "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture." The Secretary General was concerned that we were not on track to meet that objective, among the other SDGs, and in fact the numbers are moving further away from that goal over the last five years.

The Secretary General also recognizes that the way we produce food, and how and what we do between the farm and fork contributes to emissions, waste and is not sustainable. But he also recognized that the solutions to these challenges can be found in what we can do differently in our food system; hence the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

The Summit will attempt to awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. It is a summit for everyone everywhere – a people's summit- each of us has something to say and each of us can do something that can make a difference.

Breaking views - Dixon: How to Make COP26 Climate Summit a Success
Hugo Dixon, Reuters, January 5, 2021

There are two tipping points in the climate crisis. The first will come if the climate spirals out of control; the second if humanity takes decisive action to stop the planet frying before then. As the world prepares for November's United Nations climate summit "COP26", we are getting closer to both tipping points.

Humanity is ramping up its action to fight the threat. Joe Biden has pledged that America will reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. China has promised to get there before 2060. Meanwhile, the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is chairing the climate talks, have upped their shorter-term targets for reducing emissions.

Low-carbon technology is also advancing in leaps and bounds. As a result, the annual cost of getting to net zero is now $1 trillion less than it was a year ago, according to Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, investors are deserting fossil fuels and pushing down the cost of capital for renewable energy.

To Fund Biodiversity Conservation, Redirect Subsidies from These Three Industries (Commentary)
Michelle Chong, Mongabay, December 17, 2020

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, biodiversity conservation funding from tourism and donations has dried up. Yet a new report published by The Paulson Institute, Cornell University, and The Nature Conservancy outlining the current state of conservation finance makes the case that the most powerful fiscal measure to halt species extinction need not require new funding, but rather the reallocation of existing funds, particularly agricultural, fishing and forestry subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity.

The report highlights how taxpayers could be unknowingly subsidizing farming, fishing and logging practices that directly drive species to extinction. Changes in land and sea use was the biggest cause of biodiversity loss in the last 50 years. It's predicted that 70% of terrestrial and 50% of freshwater biodiversity loss will be attributable to unsustainable agricultural practices by 2050.The report found that in 2019, farming, fishing and logging subsidies that degraded nature (US$ 273 – 542 billion) exceeded the global total spend on biodiversity conservation by two to four times.

Sustainability in Livestock Farming Is a Matter of Balance
Roxane Feller, Euractiv, September 15, 2020

This article is part of our special report Exploring sustainability in the EU livestock sector.

Sustainability is a balancing act. This goes for every sector, but none more so than the livestock sector, one of Europe's key focus areas in the EU Green Deal.

Repeating comments by Germany's Agriculture Minister for Food and Agriculture Julia Klöckner during a July meeting of the European Parliament's ENVI Committee meeting – "Organic farming isn't the holy grail and conventional farming isn't the devil. Organic farming must become more efficient and conventional farmers must become more sustainable.

It's an opportunity for us all to work together." [taken from the English translation] – I can say that when it comes that desired balance for true sustainability, I couldn't agree more. When you take animal health as the pivotal point for livestock farming, the balancing act becomes a much easier task. Any well-established and practised animal health management plan will deliver on the three main pillars of sustainability.

Taking the social aspect first, any sustainable business should have the support of its employees and the community it operates in, as well as the support of the consumers it serves.

Social acceptance is growing in influence and due care must be taken to not let emotion and opinion outweigh what matters: securing a sustainable food supply at affordable prices that is respectful of both the environment and animal welfare.

Animal health is a prerequisite for good animal welfare. Veterinary vaccines and medicines help to prevent and treat animal diseases, as well as reduce pain and discomfort.

And in terms of our shared health, healthy animals are the cornerstone of Europe's high levels of food safety. Careful animal health management focused on prevention also reduces the occurrence of bacterial infections, and therefore the need to use antibiotics.

Healthy animals also deliver on the environmental pillar. Efficiencies that are beneficial for our environment are most often created when herds or flocks benefit from good health. Innovative tools can be implemented by farmers which help with monitoring factors such as feed intake, weight, temperature, etc. assisting with more targeted management of animals both individually and as a group.

Healthy animals require fewer natural resource inputs like feed and water as they move through the production system, so excess need for such inputs can be avoided. Livestock can also consume crop residues and other by-products that could otherwise become an environmental burden as 86% of livestock feed is not suitable for human consumption.

Well-managed animals can also lead to a 30% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. And in terms of biodiversity, grazing animals help to maintain grasslands that act as important carbon traps and cannot be used to grow other foods.

And finally on the economic pillar, ensuring the viability of livestock farming is also linked to the creation of efficiencies. This means using the necessary animal health tools and services to reduce animal mortality and avoid any food or other product losses directly at farm level.

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