Looking back makes me want to move forward.
By: Anne Wasko
Looking back on my past 4 years as Chair of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef makes me proud of the work that our beef supply chain has accomplished in beef sustainability. It also reminds me we have lots to do yet.
The backbone of the CRSB is the multi-stakeholder membership bringing all parties of the beef supply chain to the table. I find this hugely refreshing in an industry where, historically, it has been much more ‘silo-based’. It also means those tough conversations can be had and typically I have found that once one partner gains an understanding of the other in terms of how and why things are done a certain way, there’s middle ground to be found. Collaboration at it’s best.
Coming from the producer community, it is easy to say ‘beef farmers and ranchers in Canada have been sustainable for generations’ but the reality today is that we need to show and prove this. Being at the table to help shape how that looks is important. Being part of that policy discussion is imperative. Producers don’t want to be told what to do or how to raise cattle – this country is vast and unique meaning our production methods are too.
Sustainability often takes on an environmental focus but it is much more than that. Animal health, technology and innovation, people and our community plus food quality and safety are also pieces of a sustainable beef chain. And everything is underpinned by economic sustainability. The reality today, though, is the environment is front and centre – beef producers see and live it everyday and typically don’t have much control over environmental factors meaning it is a complex challenge. We need a systems approach so that unintended consequences don’t cause harm (to the land, water, biodiversity, species at risk, etc).
Many of our stakeholders have recently made sustainability commitments and goals encompassing their entire supply chain. Now the work kicks into high gear around getting gaps filled and research underway to support and verify measurements of what’s being done and to build trust in sustainability moving forward. We need robust incentive programs to help drive the economic side of the equation.
We know cattle and beef production can be part of the solution for climate change. The beef sector has set ambitious 2030 goals that cover a wide variety of topics that underscores the vast benefits of raising beef cattle in Canada. I’m pleased the CRSB was part of this process and will be part of the industry team that ensures we measure and report progress moving forward.
Canada is a global leader in beef sustainability and our beef producers are some of the most efficient in the world. This makes me proud. But it also means eyes are on us – others looking for leadership in this arena and yet others placing targets on our backs. By working together using science, communication, and collaboration to advance the beef sustainability journey.