Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef aims to be part of environmental solution

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef sees carbon-sequestering potential in grasslands, positioning the industry to be part of the climate change solution.

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has launched its sustainability goals for the world’s beef value chain. 

“The goals which we have launched today are a commitment from the global beef industry, articulating the role and responsibility that we are taking together towards achieving a more sustainable ecosystem," said Ruaraidh Petre, executive director of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, via a news release. 

 The roundtable’s goals cover climate, land use and animal welfare. The three goals include reducing the net global warming impact of beef by 30 per cent by 2030, ensuring the beef value chain contributes positively to nature and adopting best practices to provide cattle with an environment in which they can thrive.  

The global roundtable is a network of producer groups, ag companies and processors, retailers, national roundtables (including the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef), government agencies, universities and other organizations.

A pathway to climate neutrality 

 The global roundtable’s goal to cut the beef industry’s global warming impact will put it “on a pathway to climate neutrality,” states the release. The roundtable intends to support the global goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees by 2030. That means incentivizing “climate-smart” beef production, processing and trade, while also protecting and building on carbon stored in soil and landscapes.  

“Much is already being done to preserve grasslands, adopt regenerative practices, protect forests, enhance carbon sequestration, and optimize resources, but there is strong recognition of the need and opportunity to do more,” said Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, Calgary-area rancher and member-at-large of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. 

Reducing atmospheric greenhouse gases will require people to both reduce emissions and sequester more carbon. The beef industry can be a key player in sequestering carbon, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognizing the carbon-sequestering potential of grassland and cropland. All processors and retailers, and many producer organizations, have already set goals that align with the roundtable’s broader goal, the release notes.  

Roundtable members have committed to investing in researching and developing climate-smart practices, tools, and knowledge. Investment has already been made in areas including detailed analysis of carbon sequestration. The next step is to look at how to more effectively measure carbon on an ongoing basis.  

Contributing to nature 

Many producers and farmers are already net positive contributors to nature, the roundtable notes. The roundtable’s members will finance, source, develop, support and share practices throughout the entire value chain that are designed to sustain and restore grazing lands, enhance resilience, conserve forests, grasslands and native vegetation, increase biodiversity, and help reverse ecological decline.  

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is also working with its members and key stakeholders to eliminate illegal deforestation and illegal conversion. Beef farmers and ranchers will have access to greater financing from members within the roundtable and recognition where no contribution to additional deforestation is made. 

The roundtable’s members will encourage adoption of science-based land management practices that will maintain healthier soils, generate additional carbon sequestration, promote efficient water use and increase biodiversity. 

“Beef is not only part of a vital food system, but a hundred-billion-dollar industry that supports farmers, ranchers, families and communities in almost every country all around the world,” said Barnes. The roundtable’s goals “represent our aim to safeguard the natural world,” she added. 

Providing cattle with a good quality of life 

Sustainable beef means providing cattle with an environment in which they can thrive, notes the release. Health and welfare are the major contributors to doing so. Roundtable members will focus their efforts on continuing to improve the quality of life for cattle, achieved through increased adoption of best practices in disease prevention, treatment measures, cattle handling and appropriate genetics. 

Roundtable members will work with beef farmers and ranchers to encourage adoption of best practices across the beef supply chain that will improve welfare and increase the ability of cattle to thrive in accordance with the World Organisation for Animal Health. Increasing training opportunities by 25 per cent based on 2020 levels will help ensure responsible practices are implemented, such as ensuring comfort, allowing animals to express normal patterns of behaviour and pain mitigation. 

Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef members will track the effectiveness of the training, while continuing to focus their efforts on minimizing morbidity and mortality with measurable improvements for each. All value chain partners, from farm to plate, will be encouraged to support and invest in the continuous improvement of cattle’s health and wellbeing. 

“Our goals are ambitious, and we may not yet have all the solutions to achieve them. By focusing our efforts, we aim to inspire research and investment in science and innovation that will unlock their potential impact,” said Petre. 

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