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U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef adopts industry framework

Framework will voluntarily assess core elements of sustainability and encourage continuous improvement.

Major food and retail companies, cattle producers, veterinarians, scientists and non-government organizations (NGOs) adopted the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework this week to strengthen the sustainability of U.S. beef. The framework is a product of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), a multi-stakeholder organization whose 116 members represent 30% of the nation’s cattle herd, more than 20 billion lb. of beef processed and more than 100 million consumers.

USRSB said the framework leverages individual opportunities for continuous improvement in sustainability unique to businesses and operations that raise, process or sell beef in the U.S. It also allows individual operations to voluntarily assess their sustainability efforts.

“Today, the U.S. beef industry serves a delicious, healthy and sustainable product,” said 2018-19 USRSB chair Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, JBS USA director of sustainability. “The U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework is about telling that story to consumers by improving transparency as well as exploring opportunities to more responsibly use resources, raise animals and care for the people who help beef get to the American dinner table.”

The U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework was developed by beef farmers, ranchers, feedyard operators, livestock auction markets, packers, processors, retail and foodservice companies, veterinarians, NGOs and other stakeholders who share a mission to advance, support and communicate U.S. beef industry sustainability. By design, the framework applies to any business model, region or production system, regardless of past or current sustainability efforts.

“Our organization is confident in the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework,” Stackhouse-Lawson said. “Over the course of four years, these resources underwent seven internal and public comment periods, which received an abundance of positive feedback, and recognized the ability of the framework to address beef sustainability in a meaningful way.”

USRSB also announced its intent to introduce the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework to stakeholders across the nation throughout 2019. The organization identified outreach events, including national trade association meetings for the cattle, grocer and retail associations, as well as smaller regional meetings, to capture a diverse audience.

The outreach provides a platform to unveil the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework and explores elements such as the framework’s six high-priority indicators -- areas most important to the sustainability of beef. These areas include water resources, land resources, animal health and well-being, employee safety and well-being, efficiency and yield and air and greenhouse gas emissions.

The planned outreach also explores additional resources that can help individuals and companies achieve sector-specific metrics – practices that demonstrate sustainability across the high-priority indicators – and sustainability assessment guides – guidance documents to help operations and businesses achieve metrics while ensuring operational and financial success.

This outreach will be led by incoming chair-elect Ben Weinheimer, vice president of the Texas Cattle Feeders Assn.

“Sustainability means something different to each of us -- a challenge USRSB embraced,” Weinheimer said. “As we roll out the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework throughout 2019, our goal is to assist the industry in recognizing those differences and bringing forth realistic approaches and opportunities for individual operations to highlight areas of value unique to them.”

USRSB will not oversee implementation of the U.S. Beef Industry Sustainability Framework in the marketplace. However, it said it understands that many of these programs may originate on their own and encourages market-driven initiatives.

“Marketplace implementation is not the purpose of the roundtable, nor are regulations,” Weinheimer noted. “The roundtable made a very important choice early on not to mandate standards or verify individual stakeholder performance. USRSB is focused on building trust with consumers and helping educate the beef community about sustainability.”

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