In a significant step forward for the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the largest beef producer organisation in the United States has thrown its support behind the process.
Discussions on the development of regionalised sustainability plans for the global beef industry have been underway between the World Wildlife Fund and some of the industry’s largest downstream players such as McDonalds, JBS, Cargill and Walmart since November 2010.
The Cattle Council of Australia was also among the initial organisations involved in the first Roundtable meeting in Denver, Colorado.
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association has maintained an observer capacity until now, however president J.D. Alexander told Beef Central yesterday that the organisation had decided to join the process.
Asked why NCBA had delayed its decision to commit until now, Mr Alexander said the NCBA wanted to gain a full and thorough understanding of who was involved and what the participants were aiming to achieve before signing up.
He said the association recognised that beef producers have to provide a product that consumers want and are willing to pay money for, and believed it had to take part in global beef sustainability discussions. .
“The major premise I go by is that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu," Mr Alexander said.
“I’m a firm believer that we’ve got to have our voice heard.
“We’re representing producers all across the United States, we’re the oldest, longest established, biggest organisation, so we want to be a part of anything that is going to be determining our future.”
He said it was important for producers to have a seat at the table because they had as much knowledge about sustainable beef as any other stakeholder.
Mr Alexander said no single group was able to control the GRSB process.
“I’m sure it will be consensus, and that is why we want to have our voice heard.”
Troy Hadrick, a rancher from South Dakota who has been talking to Australian cattle producers about agricultural “agvocacy” at Beef 2012 this week, said the World Wildlife Fund did not rank as a group of high concern to agriculture in the US.
As one of the country’s best known and most-active rural advocates, Mr Hadrick spends a lot of time dealing with groups that have an anti-animal agriculture agenda.
WWF did not fall into that category in the US, he said.
“I know there are a few people over here a little worried about WWF, but they’re pretty low on our list when we start talking about groups that we are worried about,” he told Beef Central yesterday.
“There is a quite a bit of common ground. To my understanding they are very cognisant of the fact that we have to feed nine billion people, and they realise that using livestock to feed people is a very important part of that, so that is a starting point there we don’t have with groups like HSUS, PETA or Animals Australia.
"So I don't mind having a conversation with those folks."