Setting The Global Standard In Beef Sustainability By Leveraging Expertise Around The World
June 25, 2019
From burgers to steaks to sandwiches, beef is a staple in the world’s diet. Many people are not aware of the magnitude of the beef industry, and with all the confusion around labels in the supermarket, it is important to be clear about the role of sustainable beef in the larger industry.
While approximately half of all beef in the world is produced in the United States, Australia and the European Union, beef is farmed and produced in most countries around the world with a wide variety of production practices. Although many people might not realize the size of the beef industry, they are becoming increasingly interested in how the beef they are consuming is being produced and distributed from farm to table. We have been working hard to open the lines of communication and create a network in the industry to share, support and grow practices in sustainable beef production.
OSI realizes and encourages the notion that supporting sustainable beef production is as much of a business imperative as it is a moral imperative. To create a sustainable beef industry, however, best practices from around the world must be shared with an understanding that sustainable beef production faces a myriad of challenges depending on the region, country and local environment.
We also need to include voices from inside and outside our industry. This is why OSI is participating in beef roundtables in all our processing regions, including the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability.
THE GLOBAL ROUNDTABLE FOR SUSTAINABLE BEEF
OSI has made sustainable beef production a core pillar of the activity supporting our supply chain. The president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, is also OSI’s chief sustainability officer, a relatively new position in the global protein industry. OSI customers consider the impact of their supply chain and their suppliers’ activity a key factor when striving to meet the requests of consumers who enter their doors. Through the work of Johnson-Hoffman and the entire company, OSI is developing a strategy to demonstrate and share OSI’s progress with interested people in the future. Those willing to learn and be a part of the global effort to create an increasingly sustainable beef industry can join the cause by learning from the GRSB and its regional roundtables, as well as contributing to its efforts, no matter how big or small.
Sustainable beef production includes five distinct factors as recognized by the GRSB. The first factor is the ability to manage natural resources responsibly and in a way that enhances the ecosystem.
Next, global sustainable beef stakeholders protect and respect human rights, and recognize the critical roles that all participants within the beef value chain play in their community regarding culture, heritage, employment, land rights and health.
Likewise, the GRSB believes members of the supply chain should work hard to ensure the health and welfare of all animals. Furthermore, once the beef is produced, members of the supply chain must also ensure the safety and quality of beef products.
The final element of a sustainable beef supply chain relates to efficiency and innovation. Global sustainable beef stakeholders should encourage innovation, optimize production, reduce waste and add to the economic viability of the industry and the communities in which they operate.
The GRSB has included beef producers and all other parts of the value chain, along with big brands who are anxious to align and communicate the many ways they are taking great care to improve the situation of their employees and community.
For everyone involved, from NGOs to the companies inside the value chain, one of the benefits of working in conjunction with the roundtables is working alongside like-minded beef stakeholders to tackle some of the biggest challenges in beef production. Through working groups on deforestation and carbon calculation, we can address our industry’s biggest issues collectively and with a unified voice.
AUSTRALIAN BEEF SUSTAINABILITY FRAMEWORK
Australia has long been recognized for its efforts in sustainable beef production. The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework (the Framework) was launched in 2017. The Framework defines sustainable beef production and tracks performance over a series of indicators each year. The Australian beef industry has already been able to track significant progress in promoting and implementing sustainable practices from farm to table. The industry has achieved a 14 percent reduction in emissions over the last 30 years and is working towards a carbon neutral footprint by 2030.
While there is much the rest of the world can and should learn from the Australian Framework and its successes, it is important to understand that each country faces its own set of unique challenges and priorities and part of being able to make progress against these challenges is defining and tackling them collectively.
Since establishment, The Framework has been working to collect industry-wide benchmarks for their priority areas that empower members of the value chain to track their progress against the priorities. OSI is working with our fellow Framework members to bring these indicators to life within the supply chain and make it easier for each sector to monitor their progress on the priorities.
US ROUNDTABLE FOR SUSTAINABLE BEEF
Seeing the challenge of the US Cattle industry being relatively disaggregated compared to other beef producing markets, a number of vocal and strong stakeholder groups formed the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) in 2015. This is the main body for alignment on sustainability initiatives in United States beef production. The USRSB has achieved progress precisely because it includes stakeholders from each sector of the value chain and voices from outside the industry, such as allied industries and NGOs.
OSI is working with the USRSB to help shape the criteria for the Sustainability Assessment Guides, which were published online with unanimous support this May. These guides provide a self-assessment of sustainability practices in each part of the supply chain that tackle animal health, water and land resources, efficiency and yield, air and greenhouse emissions and employee safety and well-being. With time, current programs from all sectors with these components will be recognized for sustainability impact by the USRSB on the group’s website. In addition to assessing our own beef processing facilities on this standard, OSI has been encouraging our supply chain to consider going through their own self-assessments as well.
EUROPEAN ROUNDTABLE FOR BEEF SUSTAINABILITY
The European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability (ERBS) is the newest roundtable in which OSI is engaging. The ERBS grew out of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Platform) Beef Working Group.
It was launched in the summer of 2018, with Claire Donoghue, OSI’s European sustainability director, chairing the metrics working group.
The ERBS has just released their four priority action areas and set outcome-based targets in environment, animal medicines, animal health and welfare and farm management.
This group has focused on establishing sustainable beef supply chains in four top markets: Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland. OSI is helping lead the initiative in Poland by leveraging our existing sustainable feed standard for supplier quality, expanding criteria to include sustainability, and developing a national standard for the country by 2022.
LEADING THE SUSTAINABILITY CHARGE AROUND THE WORLD
Sustainability programs empower members of the global beef supply chain that are implementing practices to accelerate the positive impacts being achieved to improve the industry, animal welfare, the environment, and the lives of employees and people in local communities. Increasingly, companies and countries are understanding that becoming aligned or certified in nationally and globally recognized standards is the right thing to do for their consumers and for business. Aligned companies can also be proud to showcase their achievements in sustainability practices to their customer base and the general public.
OSI continues to work and seek out opportunities in sustainability to bring more members of our industry together in these non-competitive and established programs with standard criteria. OSI believes in this mission wholeheartedly and has seen the improvements to our business and the people within our network since the roundtables have taken off. Now everyone within our company, from sustainability professionals to the tactical supply chain purchasers and quality assurance auditors, are working together to bring the benefit of making sustainability a core business function to all interested and willing stakeholders around the world in a way that addresses the challenges and needs of each local market.