Wednesday, 04 December 2019 09:55

Beef roundtable singing from sustainability song sheet

Written by  Pam Tipa
NZRSB sterring committee chair Justin Courtney. NZRSB sterring committee chair Justin Courtney.

The New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB) will call in the new year for people and groups to register their interest in being involved.

An inaugural forum will likely be held for those who want to find out more, chair of the steering committee, Justin Courtney told Rural News.

The NZRSB, launched last month, is part of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), committed to ensuring the beef sector is economically viable, socially responsible and environmentally sound.

Founding participants include ANZCO, B+LNZ Ltd, Greenlea Premier Meats, Fonterra, McDonald’s, Silver Fern Farms, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and farmer food producers.

Courtney reports “incredibly positive” feedback since the launch from farmer producers and other interest groups who want to be involved.

 “We have had interest from some other support agencies such as banks in particular, who said this is a good forum to understand the challenges and opportunities for our industry,” he said.  “We have also had interest from other red meat processors.  

“We have been lucky that this set-up process has been a tight collaboration between Silver Fern Farms, ANZCO and Greenlea as well as B+LNZ and the Meat Industry Association who act as our secretariat.

“But we are looking forward two other meat companies seeing value in this collaboration as well.

 “The minister (Damien O’Connor) at the launch said it was an historic moment for New Zealand in having three of our red meat companies all praising each other on how we work together.”

A point of difference with this group is it covers the whole supply chain, Courtney says. “We have also got retailers and food service represented there as well as processors.”

The roundtable also includes a group representing environmental and animal welfare -- an important aspect. One steering group member is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) which has been instrumental in roundtables around the world. 

“We had a group of organisations take part in materiality assessment research, including Forest and Bird and Fish and Game.  

“We will be welcoming their views so that we are abreast of what is important for people in New Zealand.” 

Others instrumental in setting up the roundtable include Fonterra, McDonalds and Northland farmer David Kidd.

The New Zealand roundtable will work with other countries on a range of programmes and initiatives to encourage and promote sustainable beef production methods.

In the two-year process of setting up the roundtable they have gone through the process of understanding what the main issues are.

 “That answers the question, what is sustainability? Everyone talks about it and says we are sustainable but how do you really know?”

An independent company called Thinkstep did the materiality assessment research for the roundtable and for the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), which highlighted the key issues for the industry. The report is available on the RMPP website.

 “All food producers and retailers of that food are being asked good questions by the public and the community about how good that food is it for our community, asking, can you show proof?

 “We believe the New Zealand story of red meat production, particularly beef, is a special one. It is a good story to tell because we are largely grass-fed in New Zealand, we lead the world with our grass-fed farming practices and we support a lot of regional communities in how we farm and produce that food.  

“The consumer also wants to know that the product is good for you.  The nutrition benefits of red meat are widely understood but we also have a lot more competition for what consumers will put on their plates.

“We need to know we have positioned our New Zealand red meat and beef at the top end of the consumer spectrum. ”  

Courtney says nowcomes ensuring it has been told in the right way.

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