The Australian beef industry’s commitment to sustainability has received a ringing endorsement as world leading from one of the global food industry’s most senior sustainability experts.
Chicago-based Nicole Johnson-Hoffman is the chief sustainability officer of OSI International Foods, which produces a range of food products for some of the leading global fast food, food service and retail brands, including beef patties to McDonald’s.
In January this year she was elected as President of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
In an address to Australian cattle producers at Beef 2018 in Rockhampton on Monday, Ms Johnson-Hoffman said Australia was at the forefront of global beef sustainability.
What set Australia’s beef industry apart was the fact its sustainability programs had been “farmer-led”.
Ms Johnson-Hoffman said when she heard presentations on the Grazing Best Management Practice (BMP) program and the Australian Framework for Sustainable Beef at an event in Canberra last year, she thought the progress Australia had made was “jaw-dropping”.
“That work is really comprehensive,” she said. “It compares very well, in fact, it is superior to the work that I have seen in other parts of the world.
“The information that farmers are gathering through those BMPs and working and using to improve their processes and using to protect the environment and social welfare, is fantastic.
“It is more holistic and more comprehensive than other parts of the world are doing.
“I don’t know if you know that. But I am here to tell you that if you lay out that work side by side, with work that is done in other countries that are claiming to be farther along on beef sustainability than Australia is, you would be very proud indeed of what you have created here.”
She said the farmer-led nature of Australia’s program provided a major advantage over other programs.
“Other countries have done some sustainability work that they’re very proud of and they should be, but they haven’t put the farmer at the centre of it,” she said.
“So you have smart people who have got in a room who have sat down and talked about what needs to improve or change or develop in that part of the world’s beef production, and then they presented it to the farmer after that, and said here we did this work for you.
“What do you think the usual answer is from farmers who are presented with help from non-farmers on how to improve their operations?
“They are not delighted. And actually it is not generally going to be considered to be high quality work or at least not going to be received as the highest quality work.
‘you should be terribly proud of that, I think you should take your rightful place at the front of global sustainable beef work’
“But this work that has been done through the Grazing BMP and Australian Framework for Sustainable Beef is farmer led and I think you should be terribly proud of that, I think you should take your rightful place at the front of global sustainable beef work.
But she added that Australia’s beef industry had to effectively promote its sustainability advantage in order to properly capitalise on it
“If we don’t celebrate the quality of your work and the credibility of the process that you engaged in to come up with it, other countries will continue to dominate this topic, and will be able to promote processes that aren’t as credible and aren’t good for farmers,” she said.
“So I ask you please, as a service not only to Australia’s farmers but also to farmers around the world, I ask you to please step forward and share the work you have done,
“Claim credit for what you have accomplished and use it to do even more so that Australian can be recognised as a global leader in sustainable beef production.
“It is… the natural place for Australia’s beef industry to sit, it is your rightful place I would say and I am asking you to step forward and claim it.”