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This week's Hot Topic Discussion on the subject of Regenerative and Nature Positive Production took place yesterday. We will be able to provide a link in the next Connect for those of you who weren't able to attend.

We are not the first to look into this issue. With the increased use of the word but no common definition, it is clear that the term is open to interpretation.

This article explores the use of the term and how it relates to other movements in sustainable agriculture; "Regenerative agriculture, agroecology, conservation farming, organic agriculture, etc. can be all seen as a means to achieve a similar, yet vaguely defined goal: sustainable agriculture."

For GRSB the definition of "Sustainable Beef" may well be a bit long winded, but it is hardly vague, and it's certainly not about sustaining the status quo (a common gibe from some quarters).

Robert Rodale might have thought in the 1980's, that regenerative organic agriculture (ROA) as an approach is "beyond sustainable", but the definition used by the Rodale Institute's Regenerative Organic certification seems surprisingly focused on a check list of practices rather than outcomes.

GRSB's definition "Planet, People, Animals & Progress" is focused on the three pillars of Environment, Social and Economic and predicated on continuous improvement and performance outcomes.

Our five principles are broader in scope than the ROA practices and while they do not include Organic, they importantly do call out "enhanced ecosystem health" as one of the outcomes of our Natural Resources Principle. Our NR criteria, in turn, also emphasise the importance of protection of native ecosystems from conversion, improved soil health and the enhancement of native plant and animal biodiversity, amongst others.

A potential problem with the term Regenerative is that "vague and diverse definitions, combined with a lack of regulation and protection of the term, leads to a situation in which governmental agencies, industries and sector organizations have their own interpretation of regenerative agriculture, depending on particular interests," and this can lead to confusion.

Worse, it can lead to misleading statements or claims. Some large corporations have defined their approach to regenerative, and it is interesting that General Mills Inc for example, does use an outcome-based definition, as opposed to one based on practices, as follows: "Regenerative agriculture is a holistic, principles-based approach to farming and ranching that seeks to strengthen ecosystems and community resilience. RA improves the following outcomes: (1) Soil health, (2) Biodiversity, (3) Water, and (4) Farmer Economic Resilience."

In the meantime, it might seem surprising to those of us who work with these concepts on a daily basis, that "Regenerative agriculture practices aren't yet familiar to most Americans. Just one in five (19%) of survey takers said they'd heard of regenerative agriculture."

Strangely, a larger proportion thought such products would be healthier (despite not having heard of it before?) but, perhaps less surprisingly, very few would be willing to pay more for such products.

Where does that leave us? Clearly, many of our members are already involved both in GRSB and in Regenerative Agriculture, and are doing excellent work to improve sustainability. I, myself, had a keen interest in holistic management years before GRSB was formed.

With outcome verification as practiced by Land to Market, evidence is provided that the system is making a difference. Wherever one makes a sustainability claim, I would argue that evidence is required, otherwise we are simply using the language of marketing.

This discussion is definitely not about pouring cold water on the many beneficial practices or well developed systems that are referred to as regenerative. It's about understanding the potential pitfalls of not having a common definition for what is becoming a significant movement in world agriculture.

Should GRSB use the term publicly? If so, should we have a definition to point to, making it clear how our members understand it? Given our own commitment to continuous improvement and outcomes, I can imagine those would be a part of what we define as our understanding of the word. If we do undertake the decision to do that, all our members will, of course, be consulted.


Tomorrow, March 23rd, we have our Webinar on Animal Health and Welfare. An interesting point was raised by one of the panelists in a preparatory call last week, regarding the setting of goals around things that we know we can measure.

At first this sounds like a sine qua non. Why would you set a goal you couldn't measure? On the other hand, if we let our goals be led by things we know we can measure, it may curb our ambition to measure other things that may be more relevant or important, but just happen to be more difficult.

This paper takes a deeper dive into how we assess measures of welfare, and concludes that "combined use of both a whole-animal measure and a combination measurement framework for assessing welfare will give us the most accurate answers."

It's also worth summarizing the author's so-called "Desiderata for a welfare index" which are the features required for the index to be fit for purpose. These are grouped under three headings, Correctness, Usefulness and Feasibility.

  • Correctness: ie. Are the measures valid (an actual measure of welfare), accurate (reflects subjective welfare with sensitivity to variation), complete (comprehensive for the entire state of welfare of the animal), and reliable (ie. Replicable in various scenarios by different testers).
  • Usefulness includes: Range of applicability (does the test work in a wide range of contexts), Scale type (should be a numerical scale both positive and negative), and informative (ie. Should point to the specific conditions that are influencing welfare).
  • Finally, Feasibility is also important, taking us back to the point of being able to measure things; ease of use (time and cost efficient) and availability of data are important.

That's not to say no one should be investing in availability of new data if it is identified as a priority, but if we want a practical framework to use now, we need to base it on data availability now, recognising the preceding criteria.

Food for thought, which will no doubt be discussed further in the webinar.


We look forward to seeing many of you in Colombia next week!

Thank you, 

Ruardaidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
22 March 2023

In South America, most producers agree that livestock and regenerative agriculture "are booming" and there is a "marked interest" on the part of farmers in the incentives and benefits they achieve from the transition.

They highlight the fact that they increase the quality and quantity of grass, which affects production and yields. Although it is necessary to understand that the biological processes take time, once comprehended, the task is simplified, which gives some stability and tranquility. 

In recent years, countries such as Argentina and Uruguay have experienced one of the biggest droughts seen in decades, and it has been noted that those producers who have worked hard to maintain healthy soils have been more resilient than those who did traditional agriculture and livestock.

Technicians specializing in the subject do not hesitate to assure that "in regenerative livestock there is no recipe, but  it is about understanding and trying to accompany the biological processes that happen in the productive systems".

The Nature Conservancy, in Latin America, is demonstrating through different projects that it is possible to restore the balance between agricultural production and the health of the ecosystems that sustain it. 

It is an urgent need if we consider that the region comprises almost a quarter of the world's agricultural land, which is why it is projected as a key actor in the planet's food security.

Spearheaded by TNC, the Livestock and Regenerative Agriculture (R2A) approach brings together governments, corporations and producers to implement science-based practices, methods and policies that drive forest restoration and the protection of large-scale environmental resources and services. Outcomes include soil regeneration and enrichment, recovery of native vegetation, increased carbon storage, and more protection of biodiversity, habitats, and river basins.

TNC has recently joined the GRSB as a member, and in Latin America it has already been working hand in hand with the National Tables, with great leadership, as well as the other NGOs that accompany the GRSB network. Our role, as a global organization, is to gather specific information and data about each of the projects that are currently being implemented through our network and to be good communicators about these advances.

Thank you,

Josefina Eisele
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Regional Director, South America 
22 March 2023



There will be opportunities for all participants ask questions
and to join in the discussion.
his session will feature English to Spanish simultaneous translation.

Thank you to our wonderful Sponsors of our Innovation Symposium and Tour in Colombia

Colombian Supporters

Limor De Colombia SAS
Livestock Refrigeration Units of Colombia - Friogan S.A.
National Association of Breeders of Creole and Colombian Breeds
Asocriollo Colombia

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