Beef Steering Group picks top six areas for action, improvement

Beef Steering Group picks top six areas for action, improvement

27 September 2017

A new milestone for the implementation of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework has been marked with six high-priority areas selected for focus by the beef industry.

The six priorities selected by the Sustainability Steering Group are animal husbandry techniques, profitability across the value chain, tree and grass cover, antimicrobial stewardship, managing climate risk and the health and safety of people in the industry.

Of the six priority areas in the shortlist, five were proposed by the Framework’s Consultative Committee – a cross-sector reference group made up of industry and external stakeholders, established to ensure the views of key external stakeholders continued to be considered as the Framework is implemented.

Chair of the Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), fourth-generation Queensland cattle grain and grass-fed cattle producer, Bryce Camm, said the shortlisting of the Framework’s 23 priority areas was a key task for the SSG.

“As an industry led group we were really happy to see that each of the four framework themes - economic resilience, environmental stewardship, people and community, and animal welfare – were represented in the shortlist of priority areas from the Consultative Committee.

“The five priorities that the Consultative Committee recommended were all endorsed by the Sustainability Steering Group. We also added the ‘health and safety of our people’, recognising that our people are at the centre of our industry. The Steering Group felt strongly that it is important to acknowledge the importance of looking after our own people and for industry to work together to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for everyone in the beef supply chain,” Mr Camm said.

“From an industry perspective it was encouraging to see the emphasis our external stakeholders place on profitability across the supply chain. It was ranked second by the Consultative Group. A summary report of the Consultative Committee workshop is available on the framework website.

As a result of this ranking by the Framework’s independent Sustainability Steering Group a number of activities will be undertaken. Activity will include a stocktake of activities across industry and external organisations to identify gaps and duplication to ensure coordinated strategies are in place. Expert groups will be established to advise industry on the most appropriate measures where they have not yet been determined and future approaches to deliver continual improvement.

The Framework was established by the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) to support a strategy in the Meat Industry Strategic Plan for improving the transparency of the Australian beef industry, aligning practices with community and consumer expectations, and directing industry investment for continuous improvement.

Independent Chair of RMAC, Mr Don Mackay, said the Framework had been established to meet the changing expectations of customers and stakeholders, and ensure continued trust and market access for Australian beef.

“Today's consumer wants to know where their food comes from and, increasingly, major customers, investors and other stakeholders are requiring information about production practices,” Mr Mackay said.
“The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework is about addressing this demand for information, and growing the prosperity and longevity of the businesses, the families and the communities our industry represents.”

The six selected priority areas are below, with the definitions as outlined in the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework. The first five were proposed by the Consultative Committee, with the sixth added by the Sustainability Steering Group.

1. Animal husbandry techniques

These techniques include castration, horn removal (dehorning), branding, and ear marking. The industry aims to find alternatives to invasive practices (i.e. breeding selection for the polled gene) and where practicable administer pain relief before carrying out necessary husbandry procedures.

2. Profitability across value chain

To be economically sustainable the industry must generate a positive rate of return over the long-term on all capital used in cattle raising and beef production. Rate of return is measured by A rolling average of farm business profit, total factor productivity across the value chain and cost of production.

3. Balance of tree and grass cover

Well-managed landscapes and cattle production are not considered mutually-exclusive. Tree cover is not always an optimal environmental outcome. The beef industry is working to ensure protection of high conservation areas without unintended environmental or production consequences.

4. Antimicrobial stewardship

Maintaining the efficacy of antimicrobials so that infections in humans and animals remain treatable is of critical importance. Antimicrobial stewardship aims to improve the safe and appropriate use of antimicrobials, reduce patient harm and decrease the incidence of antimicrobial resistance.

5. Manage climate change risk

This covers greenhouse gases emitted along the beef value chain, including methane through cattle digestion, fertiliser application and fossil fuel use (both on-farm and in processing), measured by kg CO2e emitted when raising and processing beef, and carbon capture and sequestration.

6. Health and safety of people in industry

Working environments through the beef value chain, especially on-farm, expose employees and contractors to risk. Currently reliable data only exists for notifiable fatalities, however the industry recognises that injuries resulting in time off work present a significant risk to our people and productivity.