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

Registration is now open for the 2021 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef!

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Executive Director's Message:

We have spent a lot of time discussing our Global Goals over the past year, and all of your organisations are currently discussing them internally to provide feedback before a general assembly vote on them in April.

Together with Ian McConnel, Josefina Eisele and Simon Hall, I have had the pleasure of presenting the goals to a number of national roundtables, as well as through the working groups.

More recently, there has been considerable discussion on the UN Food Systems Summit, which is calling for a radical shift in the way food is produced and consumed around the world, in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

I have been thinking about these two sets of goals recently and how they relate to each other, as well as the meaning of sustainability (see this LinkedIn post for some thoughts on sustainability). GRSB was established because many of the companies and producers involved in the industry saw a need for continuous improvement in various aspects of the industry and recognised that such improvements have been taking place for years and need to be continued and geographically widespread.

I see two main reasons for our success to date:

  1. A whole industry approach, with acknowledgement given to the fact that some external stakeholders such as NGOs and academia can help us to be realistic about issues and help us find solutions, and
  2. A focus on continuous improvement. Why is the latter so important?

A look at human development over the last several decades shows that it is, in general, an incremental process. Lifting people out of poverty should be the goal of all of us, because that is what can deliver a truly sustainable future. There is nothing sustainable about being poor.

You are all familiar with the 'hockey stick" curve of climate change, but a similar graph can be plotted for escape from poverty. In his book "Enlightenment Now," Steven Pinker shows that this progress was not the result of some planned transformation, but incremental evolutions in technology, trade and the institutions that supported them as well as a move to the recognition that human development mattered and was desirable.

Another way to look at income is here, where it is shown that income (and it's corollary inequality) follows a relatively normal distribution. Despite periodic blips caused by recessions, trends have been upwards, while the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined.

A negative view of such economic progress would be that it has destroyed the planet. This is one espoused by David Attenborough in his recent "A Life On Our Planet," and no one can deny that human activity has had an enormous impact on biodiversity, climate and other aspects of the natural world.

However, a look at the Environmental Performance Index shows that:

"A number of striking conclusions emerge from the 2020 EPI rankings and indicators. First, good policy results are associated with wealth (GDP per capita), meaning that economic prosperity makes it possible for nations to invest in policies and programs that lead to desirable outcomes. This trend is especially true for issue categories under the umbrella of environmental health, as building the necessary infrastructure to provide clean drinking water and sanitation, reduce ambient air pollution, control hazardous waste, and respond to public health crises yields large returns for human well-being. Second, the pursuit of economic prosperity – manifested in industrialisation and urbanisation – often means more pollution and other strains on ecosystem vitality, especially in the developing world, where air and water emissions remain significant. But at the same time, the data suggest countries need not sacrifice sustainability for economic security or vice versa."

I have been heartened by books such as Pinker's, and Hans & Ola Rosling's "Factfulness", both because they demonstrate that human progress continues despite the pessimism of many and the fact that media outlets prefer to report crises than prosperity, and that it is based on the sort of continuous improvement that we encourage through the roundtable, rather than wholesale centralised control and system replacement.

I strongly believe that goals can help us improve the things that need improving. They can help us focus. I also believe that they can be reached.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
March 9, 2021

The 2021 Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, to be held April 14, 2021 (April 15 in New Zealand and Australia) will provide an exciting world-wide virtual platform to launch the vital and significant GRSB Global Goals to be implemented over the next ten years. The development and adoption of these goals is important in demonstrating the beef value chain’s commitment and progress in achieving more sustainable global practices.

The upcoming Global Conference offers a format that will allow participants to build their own itinerary from live and on-demand content. The Live Sessions will be repeated with a Q & A session so that all GRSB members and others interested in beef sustainability may participate at the time most convenient to them, allowing true global participation.  To see the agenda for the conference as well as to register...

Click HERE

Incentivizing Sustainability Along the Beef Value Chain

This free 90-minute GRSB Member webinar will be held:
Thursday, March 25, 2021
at 2:00 p.m. Central U.S. Time.
(8:00 p.m. UTC)

Although the benefits of being more sustainable would seem to be obvious, the question is still asked along the beef value chain, "who's going to pay?"

The next in a series of informative webinars produced by GRSB will explore how financial incentives are being created within institutions to recognize the important progress being made by stakeholders in the beef industry globally.

Moderated by Justin Sherrard, Global Strategist Animal Protein with Rabobank Netherlands, an expert panel will share information and provide answers to this important question.

Register HERE

We are delighted to welcome the following new members.

Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) (Consulting member): HCC is the industry-led organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. Owned by the Welsh Government and receiving core funding from the red meat levy on farmers and processors of cattle, sheep and pigs, HCC engages in brand development, as well as research and development across the red meat supply chain in Wales.

Pip Band (Individual Consulting member): Known to many of us already, Pip has 20 years’ experience as a professional communicator and sustainability specialist, now running Band consulting to fill a gap in the market for strategic sustainability solutions designed to enhance business reputation while making a tangible contribution to a just, equitable and sustainable future. Previously Pip managed sustainability and community engagement at Meat & Livestock Australia, in which role she represented MLA in GRSB.

Embracing the Positives in Sustainable Cattle Production
Drovers, March 4, 2021

Dr. Myriah Johnson, senior director of beef sustainability research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), started the session posing a question often seen in media headlines: “How do we feed the planet in 2050?”. Johnson explained the desire that exists to feed people in a way that is sustainable for generations in the future, and how beef plays a critical role in that sustainable food system. “The fundamental value proposition of beef to the food system is the transformation of lower value resources, such as grasses and plant byproducts, to higher value protein full of micronutrients, which nourishes people,”

Dr. Jason Sawyer, associate professor and research scientist with the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management, (and GRSB member), focused on beef’s role in the environmental pillar of sustainability. Sawyer suggested the industry focus on the term “climate neutral” which means implementing systems that have minimal effect on projected global temperature change.

Celebrate Canada’s Agriculture Day And Beef Producers Who Safeguard The Environment
Beef Cattel Research Council, February 23, 2021

Canada’s beef producers also play a vital role in taking care of the environment, a large responsibility that farmers and ranchers are not always credited for. While there is still room for improvement on some fronts, there is much to celebrate while the beef sector continues to improve its environmental track record.

Can we produce more beef without increasing its environmental impact? Argentina as a case study
Science Direct

We projected future beef production and environmental impacts under different production scenarios and found that it might be possible to increase beef production in Argentina by 15 % without a significant increase in the environmental impact of the sector (given a reduction of the ecotoxicological impact of crop production). We also showed that this could be achieved by adopting available practices and that the sector's self-set goals are compatible with this scenario.

Reducing livestock greenhouse gas emissions
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

Techniques to reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions may also increase livestock productivity and resilience. Methane represents lost energy in the digestion process. It is estimated that 7–10% of a ruminant’s energy intake is lost to enteric fermentation, although it can be closer to 4% for feedlot cattle.

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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