The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a coalition of stakeholder companies and organizations interested in the future of beef production, has registered as a non-profit organization in Switzerland.

The founding members of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) include: AllFlex, Allianca de Terra, Cargill, Elanco, Grupo de Trabalho da Pecuaria Sustentavel (GTPS), JBS, McDonald’s, Merck Animal Health, National Wildlife Federation, Rainforest Alliance, Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Australia, Solidaridad, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and World Wildlife Fund.

In November 2010, the roundtable organized a Global Conference on Sustainable Beef, which drew about 300 participants including producers, packers, retailers, restaurateurs, environmentalists, scientists and others. At that time, the coalition had no formal organizational structure, but the group announced this week it has adopted statutes and bylaws that will guide its work, and formalized the organization’s commitment to a global beef supply chain. The group emphasizes the “triple-bottom-line” approach to sustainability, meaning the production chain must be environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.

Speaking to reporters in a Feb. 22 news conference, the roundtable’s president, Ruaraidh Petre, International Program Coordinator for Livestock, Solidaridad in Switzerland, said the GRSB plans to expand its membership from across the international beef-production chain and develop a lifecycle analysis of beef production practices over the coming year.  “More efficient, environmentally sustainable approaches to bringing beef from farm to fork will help conserve our planet’s finite resources while also supporting our communities and our members’ bottom lines,” he adds.

Jose-Luis Bretones, Director of Global Supply Chain Strategy, McDonald’s, says his company is working toward sourcing beef from sustainable sources worldwide, and views the GRSB as a means of identifying and verifying sustainable production practices.Michael Martin, Director of Communications, Cargill, says that while Cargill produces and markets food around the world, its beef operations are primarily in the United States. But as the company anticipates the challenge of helping feed an additional 2.5 to 3 billion people by 2050, it sees collaboration as the best approach for boosting production while protecting natural resources worldwide.

Dave McLaughlin with the World Wildlife fund says the group aims to reduce environmental and social impacts of beef production, noting that internationally, beef is produced in environmentally sensitive areas, and growing demand for meat creates challenges for protecting natural resources.

Brian Bolton, CEO, AllFlex, says his company accounts for identification devices on more than half of the world’s identified cattle. He stresses that sustainable beef production that meets the growing global demand for protein will require more technology and more intensive production, rather than less. Animal identification plays a role in continued improvements in productivity. He also stressed that the GRSB is a “pro-beef” organization.

John Carter, CEO, Allianca de Terra, says his organization represents 500 ranchers with seven million acres and one million cattle in Brazil. He outlined the rapid advancements Brazilian producers are making in environmental stewardship and production efficiency. Brazilian beef producers, he says, are trying to achieve in 10 years what U.S. producers have achieved over the past century. His organization is anxious to show consumers the sustainable resource-management practices beef producers already use.

The GRSB plans to focus its efforts on the following issue categories:

  • Air (Including greenhouse gas emissions)
  • Biodiversity
  • Energy
  • Soil
  • People and animals (Including communities, business, nutrition and food safety)
  • Water

Read more about the GRSB at SustainableLivestock.org.