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Executive Director's Message:

Last week I was at the Protein PACT summit in Orlando, Florida where I took part in a panel on international engagement, CoP27 and the role of Protein PACT. 

During the session, we revisited the themes that first coalesced during the UN Food Systems Summit. It’s worth thinking about that event again, what it meant and what it has led to.

The Food Systems Summit was quite extraordinary for a number of reasons. First, it was a UN summit called by the Director General of the UN on the Subject of Food System, but did not involve the core UN agencies responsible for food, namely the FAO, the World Food Programme or the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Secondly, large parts of the agenda were clearly set and led by outside organisations with private funding, specifically EAT Lancet, but including others as well.

I have talked several times about the outcomes. The FSS did not achieve its goals because it was not an inclusive process, but was set up to exclude many of those responsible for feeding the world.

You may recall that we were being called on to deliver a Radical Food Transformation, and there are many who still call for that – EAT Lancet, WBCSD, WEF and others. There can be no doubt that we do need to continue to adapt, improve and evolve, but embarking on a radical transformation of something as important as feeding the planet is a questionable objective, given just how complicated the food system is and how poor we seem to be at predicting outcomes of even relatively minor disruptions to complicated systems. If a global pandemic and climate change have not taught us that, clearly nothing will.

Yet, we do need change. Not a radical transformation, but a considered, well thought out transition to doing things in ways that work better for people, animals, nature and climate.

We need to continue to engage in international processes because politicians are human and cannot know everything, and just by virtue of the fact that only a minority of the planet is involved in agriculture, most politicians know next to nothing about food systems or the depth of the complexities between food and environment. They, as many others, have been convinced that simple technological changes only have upsides.

I was part of a panel earlier this week to talk to the Global Research Alliance about the scientific challenges the Global Livestock sector is facing in order to respond to government climate pressure.

Scientists from many national governments of both high and lower income nations were in the audience. We were asked to consider how science can help us, and where national governments need to focus.

Moves by several developed countries to limit livestock production. In the case of Germany, by reducing dairy production by 30% or in the case of New Zealand, by taxing methane emissions, which will undoubtedly leave the world worse off in terms of nutrition and climate.

Why? Because when an efficient country with access to the best genetics, technology, animal health, extension services and feed reduces production, demand does not decline accordingly. No Germans are going to stop drinking milk or eating cheese, and very few New Zealanders will either, but there will be less to export.

So North Africa will no longer be able to import as much dairy from Germany at a time when global food costs are already rising. Human nutrition will suffer and North Africa will look to other producers to fill the void.

Similarly, New Zealand will have less lamb and beef, and possibly less dairy to export to China and other world markets, since only a fraction of what is produced is consumed domestically. So China and other countries will ramp up production, or look for other markets to import from.

As I have said frequently, both demand and production are increasing in lower income countries, where currently the ability to do so without increasing herd size is limited.

All this to say that in my conversation with the GRA, I emphasised the importance of using science to support rational policies that will create global solutions.

If you want to decrease the climate footprint of livestock, do it in ways that don’t simply move the problem, but enable increasing demand to be met both through improvements in wealthy countries, and even more critically by investing heavily in extending all of the lessons we have learned in the global “north” over the last several decades to the areas where production is ramping up the fastest.

I have heard scientists say that using GWP* to measure warming impact is “unfair” to countries where herds are growing. I regard that as a category error as I don’t think a simple metric (particularly a more accurate one) has an inherent bias.

What I do regard as deeply unfair is wealthy countries trying to wash their hands of a problem without serious investment in a global solution, and it is even more illogical when their supposed national solution will not even help themselves, as clearly the desired reduction in emissions will not transpire.

It was hubris of the tech investors in plant based alternatives to pretend they knew about the complexities of the global food system, and that their “one crazy thing” was going to solve the climate crisis, the loss of biodiversity and the nutritional shortages of the world’s poor.

Maybe they really only cared about profit after all. But they have not gone away, and they and their ilk are now thoroughly versed in the ways of international politics, UN processes and how to influence governments. The thing they really do know is marketing.

We have to take the good things that ranchers are doing in our twenty-four member countries to improve grazing management, biodiversity, animal health, reproduction, welfare, feeding, data capture, and ALL of the things along the chain that make beef more sustainable, and market them even better than those who have made it seem almost an axiom that there is no such thing as sustainable beef.

We do have one disadvantage, in that we have to be truthful and we have to be able to prove what we are saying is true, whereas they have never let the truth get in the way of their story.

We have one tremendous advantage: More than nine out of ten people still want to eat meat, and they want to know that it is produced in a way that matches their values and is good for them, their families and the planet.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
October 19, 2022

Global Conference on Sustainable Beef
November 7-10, 2022
Denver, Colorado, USA

The Global Conference on Sustainable Beef offers new information from leaders in beef sustainability, opportunities to develop relationships with numerous participants from across the globe, and further power beef sustainability.


Join our Beef Sustainability Keynote Speakers:

  • Jason Weller, JBS  
  • Marcelo Gonzalez, Paraguay Vice Minister of Agriculture
  • Francisco Dallmeier, Smithsonian Institute 
  • Tim Bettington, EVP and President of US Operations at Zoetis.
  • Peter Byck, Universtity of Arizona 
  • Justin Sherrard, RoboBank, Netherlands

The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has adopted important global goals regarding Climate, Animal Health & Welfare, and Nature Positive Production practices.  This conference will spotlight work in those areas and provide a path to future progress.


Highlights include:

  • Monday, 7 November: The Communicators Summit, panel event and networking dinner
  • Tuesday, 8 November: Updates on the GRSB Global Goals and a ‘Nature Positive Production’ panel discussion
  • Wednesday, 9 November: Discussions on ‘Balancing Production, Consumption and Nutritional Needs’ and ‘Animal Health and Welfare’, and a ‘Concerning Genetics’ panel discussion
  • Thursday, 10 November: Three different tour opportunities to various locations discovering new beef sustainability practices

Spanish translation is available for the entire conference.

Please see a summary of all meetings, calls and webinars on our event calendar in the member area of the website.

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