I will be the first to admit I was disappointed with last month’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. I failed to fill out a bracket on time, and my alma mater, Kansas State University, lost in the first round to the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky. In full disclosure, this article is being written in the middle of the tournament, and by the time you read it, there will be a champion. To that team and that school, I offer my hearty congratulations.
While the tournament’s first two rounds have seen a number of upsets and countless gravity defying plays, one thing that piqued my interested was Coke Zero’s challenge to the fans. Taking advantage of the power of social media, this corporate sponsor of the tournament asked fans to #ProveIt that they were real fans. Through quick video clips, witty one-liners or photos of outrageous game get-up, fans could Tweet at Coke Zero using the hashtag #ProveIt to show their school pride.
What’s this have to do with the cattle industry?
In the ongoing debate about what the term “sustainability” means to the industry and what its long-term impacts will be, I think cattlemen and women are being asked to #ProveIt on their operations. And I think they’re up to the challenge.
There’s not a singular agreed to definition for what sustainable beef production encompasses, but we’re getting there. In March, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) took a step forward in this process by releasing a set of principles and criteria for global sustainable beef and asked for comments from the public on their work. The group, which from the beginning has said a sustainable beef system must be environmentally sound, economically viable and socially responsible, proposed five core principles revolving around responsible use and conservation of natural resources; protecting and respecting human rights, and recognizing the importance of every individual involved in the beef value chain; respecting and managing animals to ensure their health and wellbeing; producing safe and quality products; and encouraging innovation and efficiency to reduce waste and add to the economic bottom line.
The GRSB did not dive into specific practices, measures or metrics to rate sustainability because, as they said, a “one-size-fits-all” global standard is unrealistic. I agree. Now it is up to national and regional groups to work with producers, universities and corporate partners to develop the details.