The Australian beef industry’s latest annual sustainability ‘report card’ released today shows the industry is making progress on key sustainability indicators but there is work to be done to better engage industry.
Details from the latest annual Australian Beef Sustainability Framework update, the third since its inception, were shared at an offical ‘e-launch’ earlier today. The Queensland Rural Press Club-hosted zoom conference included a panel discussion involving Sustainability Steering Group chair Tess Herbert; chef Darren Robertson; wholesaler and early mover in carbon neutral beef marketing, James Madden; Group Manager Resource Efficiency & Sustainability from Teys, Carl Duncan; and Queensland producer and Agforce President, Georgie Somerset.
The Framework defines sustainable beef production and tracks performance over a series of indicators annually.
While the framework is well known with its intended audience, there is work to be done to better engage industry, Mrs Herbert said.
“Since launching four years ago the feedback from external stakeholders, including retailers, banks and NGOs is that the framework is valuable,” she said.
“It is providing a clear and transparent report card on where we are up to in the areas they care most about. Our customers, investors and other influential stakeholders are extremely supportive of the transparency, progress, balance and accessibility of the framework.
“Where we can do better is to engage more with producers and other members of the supply chain. That is something that our Steering Group is focussed on in 2020.”
In a post-pandemic world a renewed focus by consumers on the ethics and sustainability of their food is likely, Mrs Herbert said.
“We certainly all enjoyed seeing shelves of beef cleared in the early stages of COVID-19, as consumers flocked to a product they trusted. While some may see this as a sign that sustainability is no longer as prominent as a priority, the experts are pointing to an increased focus on how food is produced and the ethics of food as we move out of the pandemic.
“Without a doubt the operating environment is changing for our industry and has been for some time. That is why in 2017 the industry developed the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework. It’s about building trust and working collaboratively within industry and with our customers and investors.
“Ultimately the framework aims to ensure that Aussie beef is not only recognised for its high quality, but for the care we take in looking after our people, our animals and the natural environment in which we operate,” said Mrs Herbert.
Mrs Herbert will note that there is still work to be done to highlight the benefits of transparency and collaboration to industry.
“I speak to producers and members along the value chain all the time. Sometimes, what I hear is fear of outsiders telling us what to do. But there shouldn’t be. Mostly our industry is doing the right thing, but some evolution is always going to be required, especially given we are selling a consumer product. We need to listen and respond to community priorities in order to remain on plates around the world.
In 2020 there will be an increased focus in industry engagement, including a series of webinars organised by the State Farming Organisations over the coming months and a new industry forum.
“A formalised Industry Consultative Committee Forum will be established allowing us to test approaches to sustainable business practises in partnership with beef business themselves. The focus of this Forum will be directly with the beef businesses community and to build on the ongoing regular engagement we have with agripolitical bodies, as well as major agribusiness,” she said.
‘A growing conversation around food sustainabilty at the moment’: chef
Chef and restaurateur Darren Robertson says he is seeing an increasing interest in better understanding production and the ethics of food.
“There seems to be a growing conversation around food sustainability at the moment. It’s about getting that message across from the farmer to the consumer – so it’s important that we all continue to be transparent and allow people to ask questions and be curious so that they’re interested in being a part of this conversation.
“There’s now a realisation that the beef industry is heading in the right direction,” the Rocker and Three Blue Ducks founder says.
Key points contained in the 2020 Annual Update on behalf of the Sustainability Steering Group include:
- Properties covered by biosecurity plans increasing from 25% to 90%
- A further 4.6% reduction in carbon accounts in the last year;
- Since becoming commercially available three years ago pain relief use has increased from 15% to 21% in the last year;
- 59% of feedlots voluntarily have developed antimicrobial plans;
- A formalised Industry Consultative Committee Forum will be established in 2020.
- It takes 65% less water to produce a kilo of beef than it did in 1981.
- 2.25% of all land involved in cattle production has been set aside for conservation purposes, and 62.5% of land is actively managed for environmental outcomes on farms that graze cattle.
The Annual Update can be downloaded here
About the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework
Launched in 2017, the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework was developed by the Australian beef industry in collaboration with stakeholders to meet the changing expectations of consumers, customers, investors and other stakeholders. The Framework defines sustainable beef production and tracks performance over a series of indicators, to promote the industry’s longevity and prosperity.
Source: Australian Beef Sustainability Framework