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

Executive Director's Message:

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The keynote address given by Jeffrey Simmons, CEO of Elanco, was inspirational and I feel it is absolutely worth repeating here:

"Good morning, good afternoon and welcome. I want you all to stop and consider where we are. Both physically and at a moment in time. We cannot choose the era and times we live in, or where we have to be at any time, but I am giving this address at the ranch of an Elanco colleague, because this is where everything starts – on the farms and ranches with producers and feeders.

From my perspective, there has never been a more significant time for the global beef industry. Following a year that magnified the role of animals and what they do in our lives, I’m not sure there could be a more significant time than right now. The COVID 19 pandemic shook our system and woke us up to the importance of healthy animals in making meat, milk, fish and eggs more available and more affordable.

2020 also brought more politics, more divides and more agendas, including issues like immigration, trade, the science of vaccines and the environment. All critical to our industry and to our livelihoods. We don't have a choice; we must step in and lead. The generation of leaders that were behind us and those to come, need us to lead. It is not a time to be careful and politically correct. I hope that all of you see this. Agriculture is at the intersection of so many of these issues. We are more relevant than ever.

In addition to improving the physical and mental health of people, animal agriculture has a huge role in protecting our planet, which must be a priority right now. That is what this conference is all about. Animal Agriculture's role in the broader sustainability landscape must be better illustrated as what it is: Part of the solution, not a primary part of the problem. We need to turn this around. If we are to achieve sustainable development goals, like zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, and temperature neutrality by 2050, we have to make a difference this decade. It's now!

The greatest movements and coalitions happen when collective groups come together and realise where they are and for a common vision for the future. I think it is for this conference, it is right now, our time is now. The pandemic may have started this decade, but by the end we must be able to look back on the major moves we made in this industry to make a healthier planet.

This is a personal mission to me and I am sorry if I get a little provocative because I think it's time we start a movement right here. the global beef industry must lead on environmental sustainability. From changes in administration here in the US to global organisations like the UN to increased involvement of global philanthropic organisations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the stars are aligned and sustainability is part of everyone's agenda. We all want the same thing: A stable environment, with clean air, clean water, and high-quality food that nourishes people.

Instead of simply being served on the table, those of us in this industry must have a seat at the head of the table. We can be an easy target or we can show the world that we are the solution, a solution for some of the world's greatest challenges. From climate change to malnourishment, animals are at the intersection.

So, let's start. The first thing we need to do is make a personal and organisational commitment today. I call it putting a stake in the ground, appropriate for the beef industry. What are you and your companies going to do? How can we take this meeting, align our initiatives, and begin to act?

In October 2020, Elanco put a stake in the ground on sustainability in animal agriculture, sharing our commitment with the world with our healthy purpose pledges. These decade long commitments seek to improve the health of people, animals and the planet, whether it is improving the availability of nutritious sustainable protein, or being a leading partner on the road to net zero emissions. We have pledged to increase access to care for three billion farm animals and help our customers remove 21 million metric tonnes of emissions from their farms by 2030. That's our commitment.

Elanco's commitment mirrors my own personal stake in the ground, a call to make progress now for a better future tomorrow. I called it out loud in my annual CEO's letter as one of the biggest forces in the first half of this decade. I plan to study it, create coalitions around it with you, simplify our story so it can be understood, and help our industry walk along this road to net zero.

I want to empower this group to do the same, to take action please. What does it mean? It means that the people here today must advocate for this industry. As people trying to change the future, we must influence the dialogue every day and take bold actions that create the right outcomes. We have to work together: Our vision becomes reality when common purposes collide and true passion can be harnessed for the collective good. Together we can do hard things for the good of our society around the world. We need to believe that.

Beyond the lives lost to this pandemic, the biggest tragedy would be if we failed to act on what we've learned, that meat, milk, eggs truly matter to people. From empty shelves, meat rationing and surging sales on animal-based protein, we saw that people turned to these foods for comfort and nutrition in times of need. So that is putting a stake in the ground.

The second area is innovating our way to a better future.

Innovation is key. Despite only accounting for 4% of US emissions, livestock, particularly cattle, are often cited as the leading culprit in GHG emissions. But healthy animals play a critical role on the road to net zero. In addition to the important role of milk, meat and eggs in human nutrition and health, they upcycle the food by-products, the grass the forages that humans can't use from land areas that have no or limited alternative use, creating at least twice as much nutrient rich protein in milk and meat as they consume. The key to achieving net zero is sequestering carbon and balancing emissions with removals. Livestock are important players on both sides of that emissions balance sheet.

If we want to make a difference in emissions from protein production, we must invest in farm animal innovation. Most of the investment over the past decades has been on the crop side of the industry, but more protein will be produced from animals. That's where the ability to reduce emissions within the sector dwarfs any impact that an alternative protein could achieve. In the US alone, retail meat sales grew by $13.3 billion in 2020. Think about that! It's 27 times the size larger than the entire plant based alternative market.

Most of us here in the beef industry know cattle are part of the natural biogenic carbon cycle, producing methane derived from CO2 in the atmosphere. Cattle eat carbon captured in plants and emit a small fraction of that as methane. Unlike carbon dioxide, Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas, persisting for roughly a decade. This is where the real opportunity lies for our industry, the short-lived nature of methane.

Atmospheric concentrations respond much quicker to emissions reductions than CO2. So, reducing methane emissions rapidly enough can actually have a cooling impact on the environment. If we can cut methane emissions by one third in 2050 compared to 2020 we can create a significant cooling effect on the climate and move us closer to the Paris Agreement goal of contain warming below 1.5 Celsius. Farm animal innovations that can cut methane emissions are a real and exciting opportunity for animal ag to be part of the global climate solution. Totally different than everybody thinks: We are not the problem. We are critical to the solution.

I'll focus on the enteric methane derived from animals' digestive process, the largest source of livestock emissions. The best avenues to reduce enteric emissions include the following

1. Reducing the loss from death and disease

2. Optimising feed to sources that generate lower emissions,

3. Genetic selection for animals that naturally have greater production efficiency

4. Feed additives that can reduce methane and improve efficiencies, generating more meat, milk or eggs per unit of feed, with lower emissions per unit.

We also have to change the model of how we look at innovation, to capture the sustainability benefits that innovation brings the livestock industry. We need science-based targets to measure the right outcomes. We need to modernise our regulatory systems to talk about the derived environmental benefits of innovation. Healthy animals can more efficiently use their resources to turn their feed and water into meat, milk and eggs. By utilising Science Based Targets, we can change what we measure and help drive investments in innovation and technology that impact these goals and make agriculture part of the solution.

At Elanco, we are ready to forge the path for positive change to do this with you. With more than 20 years of robust industry data tracking, Elanco's technical and benchmarking experience helps customers identify their potential adjustments to reduce their footprint and track their progress over time. Between our products, our partnerships, our robust industry data, and key expertise, these four key ingredients help position us as our customers' lead partner on a path to net zero. And you have our commitment that we're with you on this.

Over the years, we've developed products and solutions that have a track record of improving the sustainability of livestock production. It's thanks to our passionate people who come to work every day wanting to make a difference for the people and animals we serve. Already, Elanco solutions help farmers and ranchers improve the sustainability of livestock production. Our products together help the beef industry reduce the footprint of beef production by 9%, helping a beef producer use 60 lbs. less feed and produce, and 67 lbs. more meat from every animal, and we are continuing to explore more innovations.

We can always do better. Imagine a world where we go beyond mitigating animals' impact on the environment. What if farmers and ranchers' main source of income came from their ability to recycle, sequester carbon and create renewable natural gas and renewable electricity from animals? I believe this will happen, and will become a reality this decade.

Throughout history, science and innovation have been the solutions to our greatest challenges, like the pandemic right now. Innovation matters and it will be the answer again. So, I close with the following key point: we need to move from defense to offence.

I'd like to ask you one question: What's your narrative? What's the stake that you put in the ground? Now is our time. We need bold, courageous leaders to lean in. Our future depends on it.

This is not just about my company or your company. This is a personal challenge to all of us. It is very personal to me. I've become a student on this issue; I have a lot to learn from a lot of you. Learning from experts, people on my team like Dr Sara Place, because when it becomes personal, the political correctness stops, the worry about speaking out goes away. We need leaders who are willing to lean in and lead the conversation around innovation, investment and real scientific solutions in animal agriculture that achieve health for the planet, animals and people simultaneously.

Healthy animals have never been more relevant. This decade is not a time for animal agriculture and science to be playing it safe. We've done that before. Animal agriculture needs to switch from defense to offence, so we can give consumers what they want, give animals what they need, all while not just reducing our impact on the environment, but being part of the solution. It sounds great doesn't it? Even better, it's possible, if those of us here today decide that we want to lead, and I say lead because our industry can't do it alone. We need best in class innovators and trailblazers, collaborators, movers and shakers and visionaries who can break the industry bubble with solutions and ideas that make a better world.

The world is watching. From government to philanthropy, to the everyday person, sustainability is part of everyone's agenda. The stars are aligning and it is animal agriculture's time to shine. It starts now, it starts here at the farm gate and with each of us individually at this conference with GRSB. It starts with actions and we need to have no regrets.

When this decade is over, we can't eat our way out of climate change, sorry. We proved during Covid that what the world wants is beef. They want animal protein, but we can improve how food gets to our plate, and that's on us. We have the solution. Healthy animals are an essential part of the climate smart agriculture required to nourish while meeting climate goals.

When it comes to tackling these challenges, we can be more accessible, more impactful than any other industry. I believe that and I know you do. Together we can achieve complex goals for the good of society across the globe. Thank you."

I would like to thank Jeff, and all of the other speakers and participants. A special thanks to Nicole Johnson Hoffman who gave a similarly motivational capstone address in the middle of the night from Germany! Thank you for your dedication.

Overall, I felt the conference was a success. There are definitely some things we learned about the use of the online platform that we could improve upon in the future, but for a first time, I was pleased with how smoothly it ran. Of course, we welcome your feedback!


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
April 26, 2021

The GRSB and its Stakeholders would like to Thank the following Organizations for their Contribution to the Global Beef Sustainability Acceleration Fund.

Final Member Briefing on Goals

May 27, 2021

The Significance of Animal Protein

June 24, 2021

Please join us for an important discussion about saving Canada’s only endangered ecosystem.

Guardians of the Grasslands is a short documentary produced by Story Brokers Media House in partnership with Canadian Beef, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This film explores the vital role cattle play in preserving our endangered native temperate grasslands and was shot on location at the Waldron Ranch Grazing Co-op in southern Alberta.

The documentary has found great film festival success, including being selected for over 17 events in almost every province and even internationally, such as the Nature Without Borders and Wildlife Conservation film festivals. It has won accolades, including for Research at the Yorkton Film Festival and Best Documentary at both the Montreal Independent and Central Alberta Film Festivals.

This event will mark the official public launch of the film, which will be celebrated with a screening and an exclusive panel discussion on the value of preserving and maintaining grasslands for all Canadians. We hope you will be able to join us. Register HERE

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