Sustainability, which seems to grow in importance every year, revolves around several pillars, such as producing high quality, safe beef, as well as proper animal welfare in the eyes of consumers and food processors and manufactures. To that end, the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) is a multi-stakeholder initiative developed to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability of the U.S. beef value chain.
Of course, animal welfare is always a top priority for producers and feeders. It’s a no-brainer. Still, more and more major food companies want documented proof that beef and other meat producers use proper animal handling procedures.
During his address at the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) convention earlier this month in Fort Worth, Texas, outgoing TCFA Chairman David Baumann noted that both volunteer leaders and staffs at state and national cattle associations are helping develop sound proposals that are favorable with the beef industry.
For example, TCFA Vice President Ben Weinheimer co-chairs the USRSB Sustainability Indicators and Goals for Progress Committee and the Educators Working Group. Baumann said the working group has identified six high priority indicators.
The key indicators are animal health and well-being; efficiency and yield; water resources; land resources; greenhouse gas emissions and worker safety and wellbeing. The working group is committed to educating all facets of the beef supply chain and making sure they are aware of these indicators.
And it’s not just staff who are involved. Many beef producers are at the table, helping shape the sustainability debate. For example, Tom McDonald of JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, past TCFA chairman, is among other beef industry leaders who have strong voices on USRSB.
Among others in Roundtable leadership is Clayton Huseman, representing the Kansas Livestock Association. In fact, more than 50 producer/feeder associations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and individual private and corporate feedyards and ranches are also Roundtable members.
Membership also includes close to 15 allied industry members, 10 beef processors, and more than 20 members in the “civil society category,” which includes university beef and animal science programs and veterinary consultants.
Their presence is needed, since other USRSB stakeholders include five huge retailers, including McDonalds Corp., Walmart and Costco. Other members that may think differently than producers and feeders include the World Wildlife Fund, Carbon Nation and The Nature Conservancy.
USRSB was developed to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability of the U.S. beef value chain. It aims for the U.S. beef value chain to be the trusted global leader in environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef.
Baumann said that thanks to efforts by Weinheimer, McDonald and other producers and feeders, through support from other industry USRSB stakeholders, actions by the roundtable “are based on science and economic practicality and not the influence of activist groups.”
Larry Stalcup is a freelance writer based in Amarillo, Texas.