Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 2, Edition 11

Piercing the veil on sustainability

June 20, 2014

Cameron Bruett at Future Fare

It's a powerful word shaping the future. But what does it really mean for Canadian livestock production?

Sustainability means many things to many different people and organizations, says Cameron Bruett. To a social non-government organization (NGO), it's about labour rights. To an environmental activist group, it's about the carbon footprint of livestock. To the producer at the base of the food chain, it's an often confusing and threatening term meaning more pressures, scrutiny and risks to economic viability.

But what is true sustainability, really? Is it something producers and their industries should be afraid of? How can the issue be managed to be more about opportunities and less about challenges?

A wealth of insight was provided by Bruett at the 2014 Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) Future Fare event. As the Chief Sustainability Officer for JBS USA and president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, he brought an authoritative and often frank, no-holds barred take on the fast-shifting landscape around this issue. Here's a small sampling:

Six things to know

1. Glass half full. Sustainability is a term increasingly used in the marketplace with consumers, advocacy groups and activists. Many in animal agriculture have seen it as a threat - driving higher expectations that threaten economic viability. But the rise of sustainability as model for the future should not be feared, says Bruett. "Actually, it's a brilliant opportunity. Including for Alberta, for Canada and for producers."

Click here to read the complete feature article.

Q&A: Window on welfare

June 20, 2014

Photo Credit: Canada Beef Inc.

Cameron Bruett also touched specifically on the animal care challenge in an interview with NewStream

Q: Sustainability encompasses many issues. Is there more 'noise' today around livestock welfare?

Certainly animal welfare is an increasing focus of the public. It's always been a priority for those of us who are charged with having responsibility for the animals under our care.

But what we need to be careful about is recognizing where the pressure is coming from. Is it from the general consumer, or from the radical one percent?

There's more focus on this issue and that's a good thing. But we're also well down the road of continuous improvement and we're on the right track.

Q: You talked about true sustainability as having three pillars: Economic, environmental and social. Where does animal welfare fit?

Click here to read the full story.

McDonald's looks to Canada for 'verified sustainable beef'

June 20, 2014

Updated animal welfare standards and industry buy-in seen as key factors

McDonald's has set the beef industry buzzing with the announcement of its new commitment to source "verified sustainable beef" by 2016.

The pledge has taken on a distinctly Canadian component with the burger giant subsequently holding major discussions with Canadian Cattlemen's Association (CCA), Alberta Beef Producers and other key industry players, and advancing the country as potentially the first to begin supplying the product.

The official word from McDonald's is encouraging on its approach to industry collaboration: "We cannot do this alone, so we will listen, learn, and collaborate with stakeholders from farm to the front counter to develop sustainable beef solutions."

Click here to read the full story.

Swine welfare research gets boost

June 20, 2014

Step in the right direction for sector grappling with change

As the Canadian pork sector and swine animal care interest groups methodically worked through the process toward an updated Code of practice, a common refrain was the need for support to help industry adopt the changes needed.

A new, positive step in that direction is the announcement of $13 million in funding for new swine research, including a key focus on animal care as part of sustainability, from the federal government.

Engaging top scientists

It's welcome news for the Canadian pork industry, says Jean-Guy Vincent, Chair of the Canadian Pork Council. "This will allow our industry to engage the best Canadian scientists on critical production and product issues."

Any news related to strengthening Canada's research base is particularly welcome following major Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada cuts last year, including to key animal welfare research capacity.

The new dollars, delivered under Growing Forward 2, will go toward a "Swine Research Cluster" headed by Swine Innovation Porc. Learn more here.


June 20, 2014

Quick takes on key activity and what's coming, from NewStream editors

Global Roundtable touches down in Calgary

For those looking for a sign Canadian agriculture is on track with its sustainability initiatives, one recent vote of confidence is the decision to bring the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) to Calgary in June for some of its technical working group sessions.

"Frankly, I picked Canada because you guys are rockin' when it comes to sustainability," said Cameron Bruett, President of GRSB when speaking at the ALMA Future Fare event. "You're doing a fantastic job. Very progressive. An export minded production system that is tune with the fact you need to compete on a global scale, and that increasingly sustainability is becoming one of those tools to strengthen your system in that global marketplace."

The GRSB has "set the playing field chalk lines" with a number of important developments, including most recently its release of draft principles and criteria for global sustainable beef.

Canadian Roundtable kicks into higher gear with official opening

Cherie Copithorne-Barnes

Work by the global body has also reached a key hand-off stage where "putting flesh on the bones" work can begin by national and regional groups around the world.

Following months of formation, preparation and early development work, the official opening of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef was recently announced. Fundamentals outlined to drive its success are science-based information, multi-stakeholder engagement, communication and collaboration.

"The Roundtable represents a breakthrough for the Canadian beef industry," said Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, Chair of the CRSB. "It's important for industry stakeholders to come together to combine their expertise to ensure the industry remains economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible for future generations."

Watch for more developments out of CRSB, particularly as they pertain to animal welfare, in future editions of NewStream Farm Animal Care.




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