A GROUP of US beef value chain participants have announced the launch of the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB).
The multi-stakeholder roundtable includes producers, processors, retailers, foodservice operators, packers, allied industry and non-governmental organisations.
It plans to identify sustainability indicators, establish verification methodologies, and generate field project data to test and confirm sustainability concepts for use throughout the United States. The USRSB says it will adopt an approach whereby social, economic and environmental considerations are balanced to achieve sustainable outcomes.
“Research tells us American consumers are increasingly interested in the social, economic and environmental impacts of the beef they purchase,” the interim chair of the USRS, Cargill Value Added Meats’ Nicole Johnson-Hoffman said.
“For the first time, the entire US beef value chain, including representatives who raise cattle and produce, market and sell beef, in addition to representatives from the NGO community and allied businesses, are coming together to establish metrics and criteria that will be used to benchmark the present and help measure improvements in the sustainability of American beef going forward,” she said.
USRSB says its mission is to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in US beef sustainability through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.
Utilising the definition for sustainable beef recently released by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), the USRSB plans to develop sustainability indicators relevant to the various beef systems in the US, as well as a means to verify sustainable progress in a transparent manner that can be shared. Similar to GRSB, the USRSB will not mandate standards or verify the performance of individual beef value chain participants.
Global Roundtable chairman Cameron Bruett told Beef Central that the establishment of an ‘in-country’ Roundtable in the US was wholly consistent with the vision of Global Roundtable group – a global definition that can be applied locally for common-sense solutions.
“This is why there are regional multi-stakeholder Roundtables now in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Colombia and now, the United States. It is clear that the international commitment to sustainable beef enjoys tremendous momentum,” Mr Bruett said.
“Each regional Roundtable will leverage the global definition to responsibly address the challenges unique to their system or region.”
In contrast with the events in other participating countries sustainability roundtable issue has attracted opposition from certain segments of the Australian cattle industry and individuals within the Senate, fearful of any alignment with groups like the World Wildlife Fund in dialogue over topics like sustainability. A local Roundtable group aligned with the GRSB process was formed several years ago, but later went into suspension when some stakeholders raised concerns over losing control over the process because of the the participation of environmental groups.
“The US is a world leader in beef production and will play a key role in meeting the global challenge of feeding the world in a sustainable manner that allows future generations to thrive,” Mr Bruett said.
The USRSB is being directed by an interim board of directors that includes representatives from Cargill, Beef Marketing Group, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Micro Technologies, Merck Animal Health, JBS USA, McDonald’s, Walmart, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Noble Foundation and the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management. Participation is open to individual producers, producer associations, processors, retailers, foodservice operators, allied industry and civil society, a statement issued yesterday says.
“By 2050, more than 9 billion people will consume twice as much food as we do today,” said Nancy Labbe, senior program officer, World Wildlife Fund. “We are excited to be part of this important step toward balancing social, economic and environmental demands to feed a growing world while conserving natural resources, reducing waste and preserving biodiversity.”
Currently, the USRSB has 43 founding members. They include: Adams Land and Cattle, LLC; AgriBeef Co.; Alabama Cattlemen’s Association; Beef Cattle Institute, Kansas State University; Beef Marketing Group; Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation; Certified Angus Beef; Colorado Cattlemen’s Association; Costco Wholesale Corporation; Dow AgroSciences LLC; Elanco Animal Health; Florida Cattlemen’s Association; FPL Food LLC; Global Food Traceability Center; Golden State Foods; Holistic Management International; JBS USA; Kansas Livestock Association; K-COE ISOM; King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management; Lopez Foods; McDonald’s Corporation; Merck Animal Health; Micro Technologies; Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association; Missouri Cattlemen’s Association; National Beef Packing Co. LLC; National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; National Livestock Producers Association; Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association; Oregon Cattlemen’s Association; Simplot Livestock Company; Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable; Texas A&M AgriLife Research; Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association; The National Grazing Lands Coalition; Texas Cattle Feeders Association; The Nature Conservancy; The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation; Tyson Foods, Inc.; Walmart; World Wildlife Fund; and Zoetis.
“American cattlemen and women are proud of our efforts to provide safe, affordable and sustainable beef on the plates of millions of American and global consumers every day,” said John Butler, chief executive officer of the Beef Marketing Group, a cattle marketing cooperative located in Kansas and Nebraska.
“We stand ready to collaborate in this effort of continuous improvement across the social, economic and environmental aspects of beef production. Working together with members of the U.S. beef value chain, American producers are eager to add the next chapter to our long-standing heritage of stewardship and great-tasting beef, he said.
Australia risks losing competitive advantage
One of the key stakeholders in the earlier Australian Roundtable process drew parallels with what is now happening in the US.
“We are missing the chance to tell the simple fact we have the most naturally-based and potentially the most sustainable industry worldwide,” he said.
“The benchmark will be lowered by countries like the US taking a lead, and Australia risks losing competitive advantage,” he said.