Beef sustainability group selects six priority areas for improvement

Beef Central, 28/09/2017

THE Australian Beef Sustainability Steering Group has selected six high-priority areas for focus by the Australian beef industry.

The six priorities of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework selected are:

  • animal husbandry techniques
  • profitability across the value chain
  • tree and grass cover
  • antimicrobial stewardship
  • managing climate risk
  • the health and safety of people in the industry

Of the six priority areas in the shortlist, five were proposed by the Framework’s Consultative Committee – a cross-sector reference group made up of industry and external stakeholders, established to ensure the views of key external stakeholders continued to be considered as the Framework is implemented.

Chair of the Australian Beef Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), fourth-generation Queensland cattle grain and grass- fed cattle producer, Bryce Camm, said the shortlisting of the Framework’s 23 priority areas was a key task for the SSG.

“As an industry-led group we were really happy to see that each of the four framework themes – economic resilience, environmental stewardship, people and community, and animal welfare – were represented in the shortlist of priority areas from the Consultative Committee.

“The five priorities that the Consultative Committee recommended were all endorsed by the Sustainability Steering Group. We also added the ‘health and safety of our people’, recognising that our people are at the centre of our industry. The Steering Group felt strongly that it is important to acknowledge the importance of looking after our own people and for industry to work together to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for everyone in the beef supply chain.

“From an industry perspective it was encouraging to see the emphasis our external stakeholders place on profitability across the supply chain. It was ranked second by the Consultative Group. A summary report of the Consultative Committee workshop is available on the framework website

As a result of this ranking by the Framework’s independent Sustainability Steering Group a number of activities will be undertaken. Activity will include a stocktake of activities across industry and external organisations to identify gaps and duplication to ensure coordinated strategies are in place. Expert groups will be established to advise industry on the most appropriate measures where they have not yet been determined and future approaches to deliver continual improvement.

The Framework was established by the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) to support a strategy in the Meat Industry Strategic Plan for improving the transparency of the Australian beef industry, aligning practices with community and consumer expectations, and directing industry investment for continuous improvement.

Independent Chair of RMAC, Don Mackay, said the Framework had been established to meet the changing expectations of customers and stakeholders, and ensure continued trust and market access for Australian beef.

“Today’s consumer wants to know where their food comes from and, increasingly, major customers, investors and other stakeholders are requiring information about production practices,” Mr Mackay said.

“The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework is about addressing this demand for information, and growing the prosperity and longevity of the businesses, the families and the communities our industry represents.”

The six selected priority areas are below, with the definitions as outlined in the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework. The first five were proposed by the Consultative Committee, with the sixth added by the Sustainability Steering Group.

  1. Animal husbandry techniquesThese techniques include castration, horn removal (dehorning), branding, and ear marking. The industry aims to find alternatives to invasive practices (i.e. breeding selection for the polled gene) and where practicable administer pain relief before carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.
  2. Profitability across value chainTo be economically sustainable the industry must generate a positive rate of return over the long-term on all capital used in cattle raising and beef production. Rate of return is measured by A rolling average of farm business profit, total factor productivity across the value chain and cost of production.
  3. Balance of tree and grass coverWell-managed landscapes and cattle production are not considered mutually-exclusive. Tree cover is not always an optimal environmental outcome. The beef industry is working to ensure protection of high conservation areas without unintended environmental or production consequences.
  4. Antimicrobial stewardshipMaintaining the efficacy of antimicrobials so that infections in humans and animals remain treatable is of critical importance. Antimicrobial stewardship aims to improve the safe and appropriate use of antimicrobials, reduce patient harm and decrease the incidence of antimicrobial resistance.
  1. Manage climate change riskThis covers greenhouse gases emitted along the beef value chain, including methane through cattle digestion, fertiliser application and fossil fuel use (both on-farm and in processing), measured by kg CO2e emitted when raising and processing beef, and carbon capture and sequestration.
  2. Health and safety of people in industryWorking environments through the beef value chain, especially on-farm, expose employees and contractors to risk. Currently reliable data only exists for notifiable fatalities, however the industry recognises that injuries resulting in time off work present a significant risk to our people and productivity.

Source: ASBF. Visit the ABSF website for a copy of Australian beef sustainability framework report. 


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  1. Will Robinson, 01/10/2017

    History tells us that in 1892 – 18 000 000 sheep died, and in 1915 another
    10 000 000 sheep and 1 000 000 cattle died. Thinking about it – it sounds like a lot of money. I was not around then but they probably ran out of grass? Seemingly, if we can address the growth of grass we can become sustainable. It seems that that the grass needs to come before the cattle – not the other way around? Now some 102 and 125 years later we seem to still be thinking about it. It may be easier than we think if we are prepared to change our thinking.

    To be fair, Will, much has changed since 1892 and 1915 in the way the industry can manage drought. Think long-distance livestock transport and internet livestock auctions with a national footprint, alone. Addressing the growth of grass is as much about receiving rainfall, as it is about grazing land management. Editor

  2. Eion John McAllister, 29/09/2017

    It will take a famine to end this rampant worldwide nonsense. When people are starving they will see what really matters and that is that when people need to eat, they will not care about production systems, sustainable this or that. Ask a South Sudanese, A Syrian refugee, a Rohinga refugee or any number of starving poor sods around the world if they care about such matters. It’s only the well off who have the luxury of playing this game of “caring for the future”. More costs for producers means less profitability, we even pay for reports and investigations to tell us these revelations. MLA has no end of research etc into such matters and tells us that managing costs and increasing productivity is the key to improved profitability. That is so basic a business principle as to be almost an embarrassment to have to publish it as something of significance. I have come to the conclusion that a previous commenter who indicated that meat processing will be a sunset industry in Australia is probably going to be right and a lot of the beef producers in Australia will be joining them. Building all this cost into the producers part of the industry is wrong. If the consumer wants it then levy them at the point of purchase so they pay for what they ” want”. Then pay us to meet those wishes. If they want the bells and whistles then that’s fine, but make those that want it pay for it. We might see some different views unfold.

  3. Paul Franks, 29/09/2017

    The Australian beef industry would be far more profitable and sustainable if we did not have these organisations thinking up the next “issue” to make sure their jobs are secure.

    1. Animal Welfare is already covered under government legislation. No further action is required.

    2. We would be more profitable with less regulations.

    3. Native vegetation is already covered under government legislation.

    4. Medicines are already covered under government legislation.

    5. Not many people really care about CO2 emissions. For example with the current heatwave electricity usage is expected to be sky high. The use of air travel is increasing. When Tasmania was suffering electricity shortages due to the Bass cable breakage and low dams reducing the hydro power capacity the government quickly bought in CO2 emitting diesel generators. If CO2 emissions are so bad then why when push comes to shove no one will go without to reduce CO2 emissions.

    6. Workplace OHS is already legislated under state legislation.

    So this like LPA is a total waste of time and resources unless you are getting paid to think all these things up.

  4. Tony Wiseman, 28/09/2017

    WTF, Australian beef producers will be reporting on their sustainability.

    This cannot happen – first we need a senate enquiry and then we need to form a new Cattle representative model to take over Cattle Australia who are taking over Cattle Council. Has anyone told Barry O’Sullivan he will be sustainable?

    The beef industry can’t write a bio- security plan and we are now proposing a Sustainability Model?

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