Beefing up sustainability

05 Feb, 2016 01:00 AM

A group has formed to “put credentials under the reputation" of the Australian beef industry.

The 10-member steering committee has been put together by the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) to come up with a set of criteria that can define the industry's sustainability in international markets, and to consumers and policymakers.

The Beef Industry Steering Group carries on the work of Jim Cudmore, who was appointed by RMAC to scope out alternative ways for the Australian beef industry to develop its own sustainability criteria after an attempt to do so through the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) encountered industry resistance.

Prue Bondfield, a partner in the extensive Palgrove seedstock and beef business based in Queensland, is chairing the group. Ms Bondfield has a background in law and project management, and a commitment to aligning the beef industry with shifting social values.

Ms Bondfield hopes that the group can come up with a framework that puts the Australian beef industry “on the front foot” against market expectations of sustainability.

“It’s critical that the Australian beef industry leads the discussion about exactly what sustainable production means and how we can measure it successfully to reinforce our industry’s world class credentials,” she said.

Environment is only one aspect of the sustainability challenge. The group will also be examining the economic and social aspects of sustainability, Ms Bondfield said, without which there can be no environmental gains.

The group’s task is to find some criteria against which these rather woolly concepts can be measured. The beef industry already collects a considerable amount of data; the hope is that most of the work of quantifying what makes the beef industry sustainable can found in existing datasets.

“The Steering Group’s role is to facilitate discussion with industry and the wider community to discover exactly what indicators are required and how they will be measured,” Ms Bondfield said.

“We want to ensure we get the process right and take the necessary time for quality consultation to ensure the framework sets the foundation for Australian livestock sustainability progress in the future.”

There is no plan to come up with a new on-farm measuring system. Ms Bondfield said criteria would aim to encompass the whole beef industry.

“We’re quite unique here in Australia. We have our own issues. We’re looking at what’s unique about the Australian system, and try and put it into a front-foot framework that is relevant to us.

Of the steering committee, appointed by RMAC, she said, “all of us have some expertise, background and interest in this space”.

“And all parts of the industry are represented - production, processing, feedlotting and marketing. That diversity of views is what’s important: without that, we’re not going to achieve much.”

RMAC Chairman Ross Keane said the framework to be developed by the Steering Group would tie in with several industry priorities outlined in the recently released Meat Industry Strategic Plan 2020, around improving transparency, aligning production practices with community expectations and building trust in the sector.

The group has its first meeting on February 25-26. Ms Bondfield doesn’t have a timeframe for delivery of the framework, but she said all the committee members are busy people. “We don’t want to be meeting for the next two years”.

The Beef Industry Steering Group comprises:

Prue Bondfield (Chair): Queensland cattle producer and seedstock operator with a background in law and project management.

Tom Stockwell: Northern Territory cattle producer and previous DPI manager from Katherine with over 20 years experience with research and extension in northern cattle operations.

Tony Hegarty: New South Wales cattle producer with a focus on natural resource management and almost 30 years involvement in the Landcare movement.

Pip Job: A background in cattle production and an executive member of Landcare NSW with a focus on establishing regenerative agricultural systems to create sustainable food production and environmental outcomes for many generations to come.

Richard Rains: Over 40 years experience promoting and selling Australian beef to the world with a strong understanding of the Australian beef supply chain and what our major customers are requiring.

Tess Herbert: Sixth generation cattle producer with a successful feedlot in Central NSW and a commitment to animal welfare and innovation in the feedlot sector.

Jim Cudmore: Led the review of how the Australian beef industry should promote its sustainability credentials which was the precursor to this group being formed and a former feedlot manager and well respected industry veteran.

Mark Inglis: Background in animal husbandry and animal production in a broad range of properties including cattle properties in Western Australia’s Kimberley. In his current role, he has developed a detailed understanding of emerging customer requirements around production practices.

Tom McGuire: Tom has been involved in the Australian meat industry since 1997 and has a deep understanding of the Australian beef supply chain and what international customers are requesting the Australian industry to demonstrate in the areas of sustainability.

Dr Peter Barnard: Over 30 years experience providing market information to the Australian beef industry and assisting the industry during Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

Meat and Livestock Australia will act as a Secretariat for the steering group, with assistance from the other industry service providers.

Matthew Cawood

Matthew Cawood

is the national science and environment writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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