THE final take of the first-ever framework on beef sustainability is now out, with a few key changes in response to strong feedback from all sectors of the supply chain.
The framework is a guide for the industry to use when monitoring, measuring and reporting sustainability, not an on-farm certification system.
It’s a proactive response by beef leaders to changing community and consumer expectations and has come via extensive stakeholder consultation.
Reaction following the release of the draft report, just after Christmas, has lead to some additions and deletions in indicators and much more context being put behind explanations of indicators in order to deliver more relevance.
The four key pillars of environmental stewardship, economic resilience, people and the community and animal welfare remain the same.
However, the vision section for each has been tweaked to include striving for continual improvement, rather than delivering, as there was concern about whether outcomes can be guaranteed.
A key change to the environment pillar has been the re-introduction of sequestration, that is the ability of grassland to sequester carbon, as an indicator, reflecting producer belief that the unique nature of the beef industry to achieve this is one of its top sustainability credentials.
In the animal welfare pillar, a new priority area of animal husbandry techniques has been added, with two indicators.
One is the percentage of the herd with the poll gene, which reduces the need to dehorn, and the other is the percentage of the industry using pain relief.
In the environment pillar, deforestation as a priority area has been broadened to be balancing tree and grass cover, reflecting the fact that in the north there is a need to manage regrowth.
The development of the framework has been led by the Red Meat Advisory Council’s Sustainability Steering Group (SSG), an 11-person grass roots industry group from across all sectors.
It includes some highly respected and very experienced beef industry personnel.
RMAC chair Don Mackay said the process was about future-proofing for prosperity the whole of the Australian beef value chain.
“We want to satisfy the community, and ourselves, that we are doing everything possible to ensure the longevity of the businesses, the families and the communities the Australian beef industry represents,” he said.
“We must be vigilant and able to respond to any risks or opportunities as an industry.”
SSG chair Prue Bondfield said the report really marks the start of measuring beef’s sustainability.
It was always intended to be a living document open to regular review and adjusted in response to the needs of industry and the expectations of customers and the community, she said.
SSG member Tom Stockwell, from the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, said the aim had been to objectively describe beef’s credibility across the four pillars of sustainability.
He said that was an absolute requirement for prosperity going forward.
And it had to be achieved without requiring more bookwork at the station level.
“When the process started I thought I’d get my tuppence in early,” he said.
“Sustainability is about cattle, country, kids and cash I said.
“What about the customer, said the guru of marketing Richard Rains, (who was also on the steering group).
“Good, I thought, meeting one we have nailed it.
“Then the professionals got involved and the consultation started.
“We spent 12 months looking at a gazillion indicators, analysing them to death and ended up with a 22-page framework.”
However, it still comes down to those original areas, according to Mr Stockwell.
“It is really all about telling our story of the cattle, that is productivity and welfare; the country, that is condition, cover and tree balance; the kids, which is our contribution to the nutrition and health of rural, urban and export communities and cash, which is profit and prosperity,” he said.
Visit www.SustainableAustralianBeef.com.au for a copy of the final report.