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Sustainable Beef… Haven’t we always been Sustainable?

By: Kim McLean, PhD, PAg, Provincial Cattle Specialist, Livestock Branch

October 2016

Consumers are driving retail marketing campaigns affecting our beef industry.  This will be a fact of business for livestock producers raising meat for consumers.  We often hear the terms natural or organic and now recently a new buzz word has surfaced, sustainable.  A lot of people ask, what does this mean? Producers often respond by saying “if we weren’t sustainable we wouldn’t be here!”

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the national producer-led organization, has been proactive and formed the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) which works closely with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.  Sustainability is a critical part of the National Beef Strategy as it is a priority to help enhance competiveness of Canadian beef.  Members of the CRSB include producer organizations, food and retail service, non-governmental organizations and food and agri-business groups.  The goal of this group is to become the go-to forum on sustainable beef by advancing existing and new sustainability efforts. 

The roundtable’s vision is for the Canadian beef industry to be recognized globally as economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.  They hope to facilitate the framework for the industry to become a global leader in continuous improvement and sustainability of the beef value chain through science, multi-stakeholder engagement, communication and collaboration. 

 So, what is sustainable beef?  The CRSB has defined this as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes planet, people, animals and progress.  We all know that it’s one thing to say this, another to measure and verify this.

The group has tasked themselves with developing a framework for stakeholders to produce and source verified sustainable beef.  This involves establishing indicators and verification strategies.  Indicators determine what production practices or methods should be measured on individual operations and the verification requires a set outline on how to ensure sustainability is met.  The organization is currently in the process of developing these key indicators and developing assurance protocols for on-farm indicators.

The CRSB has been an exciting project with progress happening quickly.  Research and information is continually being released to the public.  To find this and more information on what the CRSB is doing or who to talk to, be sure to visit www.crsb.ca


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