What's in the news right now about an environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef value chain?

Executive Director's Message:

Having spent so long in one place and on Zoom calls, things have changed back with a bang. Last week, I attended the NZ Retail Butchers Summit and gave a presentation on the work of GRSB and our members.

It was an interesting meeting, with discussions on communications and consumer trends that were very interesting. While this study was focused on New Zealand, I think many of the consumer perception trends may be shared with other regions of the world.

Certainly, the impact of the pandemic on consumer opinions is likely to have been widespread, although the impacts will have varied from region to region. Inflation is certainly impacting consumption in New Zealand, with regular meat eating reaching a low of 83% of the population in November of 2021. Price inflation has continued. Shopping trends have moved more to online, whether supermarket or meal kits, and fewer people are using local butchers.

While consumers do have concerns about various aspects of beef production – environment, animal welfare and health all play their role consumers are not very deeply aware of the nuances of the issues.

In general, the impression they have is that grass fed is the solution to all of their concerns. As we have heard in other countries, the image of grazing cattle fits consumers’ image of a bucolic system, even if they do not have an understanding of what good grazing management would look like.

What resonated with what we have heard many times before, the way to gain trust is through transparency. Consumers want to know their values are shared and that communications are clear. We are looking forward to bringing together similar studies from around the world for our Communicators Summit in November.

Following that, I was in Christchurch for the New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) meeting on Tuesday and we discussed how the existing FAP+ farm assurance system can be leveraged to create a whole of supply chain sustainability standard.

On Friday, I will be off to the US to the Alltech One Conference, followed by the Beef Improvement Federation Symposium and Convention. I am looking forward to speaking at both these events, as well as the opportunity to meet with many GRSB members over the time I am in the US.

Due to a clash of dates, I am really sorry to be missing the Innovation Tour in Paraguay, which has proven very popular and is fully subscribed. Naturally, Josefina will be there, as well as the leaders of the Paraguayan Roundtable.

Speakers include Frank Mitloehner and Ernesto Viglizzo from Argentina, talking about Climate change and the role of Livestock and calculation methodologies. The Chaco tour includes a visit to different types of farms, slaughterhouses and a project to see the strong collaboration among indigenous communities, Mennonites and “Latinos”, a model of social integration and collaboration among differing communities.

Incidentally, and not really connected to beef sustainability at all, one really inspiring talk given at the Retail Butchers Summit was by David Downs. He is the author of “A Mild Touch of the Cancer,” the story of his journey through what he initially thought was flu and turned out to be lymphoma. At one point he was told he had only months left to live, but he did go into remission following CAR T cell therapy. I recommend his book, or at least this short TED talk.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
May 18, 2022

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