Beef sustainability addressed in 24th Range Beef Cow Symposium in Loveland, Colo.
Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs and sustainability for JBS USA in Greeley, and president of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, spoke on sustainability and the beef industry.
“Sustainability really has nothing to do with the system,” Bruett said. “It has to do with output.”
He spoke on the newfound struggles of retailers, which he said are not always the most rational in the new space of sustainability. Consumers now expect retailers to take responsibility for impacts in the supply chain, including crops used to feed cattle, how cattle are treated from an animal welfare perspective and distribution.
“Their only interaction with food is at the grocery store,” Bruett said of the 98 percent of Americans who are not involved in agriculture. “The retailer is ultimately held responsible. They are now pivoting and asking us for more information.”
He denounced a report released by Consumer Reports suggesting beef from organic, natural and hormone-free cattle is safer than conventional beef.
“Your bias will determine what sustainability means,” Bruett said. “Perspective matters.”
He said to environmentalists and non-governmental organizations, sustainability means green house gas emissions, water runoff and other environmental impacts. In business, he said, sustainability means asking: Am I going to have a business tomorrow? Can I make a profit? Can I pay my workforce?
“Out of a manner of trying to be more efficient, of trying to do more with less, trying to make a profit along the way, we’re doing all the things people are asking of us with sustainability,” Bruett said.
Also at the symposium, rows of industry booths displayed products to attendees. Most focused on efficiency and ease, while some took an environmental approach.
Ridley Inc. demonstrated BioBarrel by Crystalyx, a biodegradable container used to provide food supplements to cattle. It is intended to reduce labor and travel costs in retrieving the container.
“It’s a combination of wheat flour, straw and wax coating,” said Terril Weston. “It stays together when cows lick it, and it won’t blow off. It’s designed for people who have pastures far away.”
Attendees ranged from cattle producers to USDA employees.
Tom Sabel, with USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, came to learn more about industry issues. Sustainability struck a chord.
“It’s hard to define,” Sabel said. “Civilization has always been sustainable. You’ve got to move from one generation to the next.” ❖
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