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Angus Journal

Copyright © 2014
Angus Journal

Freedom to Operate Plans Forward Movement

Committee decides its priorities for future action.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 6, 2014) — The Freedom to Operate Committee is designed to “walk the walk,” said Daren Williams, executive director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), addressing the committee during the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The committee oversees sustainability research, and the beef and veal quality-assurance programs.

Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, NCBA director of sustainability research, explained that the United Nations’ Livestock’s Long Shadow report sparked sustainability research from the beef industry, though the beef industry can also benefit by positive interaction with millennial consumers.

“Green is a trend, but sustainability is a mind-set," she added. "It’s not going to go away.”

The checkoff-funded research began three years ago. The first stage of the research is completed, and the Sustainability Executive Summary is the first and largest assessment of its kind.

“This gives us a new credible amount of leadership, and a seat at the table in sustainability discussions,” Stackhouse-Lawson said. The summary can be viewed here (see "Sustainability: More than a Buzzward, page 172 of the April 2014 Angus Journal).

Future steps for sustainability research included gathering regional data and exploring the socioeconomic benefits of ongoing grazing research.

The bigger issue is the possibility of sustainability inclusion in nutrition guidelines, but the creators of those guidelines are not beef fans (see "Dietary Guidelines," page 176 of the April 2014 Angus Journal). “We need to stop picking on commodities and start addressing the real problem to sustainability — food waste,” she emphasized.

Quality assurance

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program has increased certifications by 10%, said Ryan Ruppert, BQA senior director, which was 58% more than the year before. Recent market research will be used to enhance future programs like ATV training. He highlighted Boehringer Ingleheim’s partnership for the second year to sponsor two months of BQA training online through Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute.

Cattle producers have through April 15 to take advantage of Boehringer’s offer to pick up the $25-$50 certification fee for cattlemen interested in becoming certified or recertified during this period. Visit www.bivi-bqa.com to take advantage of the open certification period.

“It only takes six to seven years for somebody to fall behind the industry if they don’t go to education events. The BQA program has avoided many black eyes with the media,” said Ruppert.

The Veal Quality Assurance program is working to update production practices by encouraging group housing, incorporating ethical principles and standards, and working toward outcome-based standards when possible. Partnerships with BQA and similar programs, explained Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Association, help with materials and outreach to prevent media issues.

The committee, chaired by Kent Pruismann, determined its priorities for future action:

  • Develop meaningful research to create messages and define sustainability.
  • Strengthen partnerships that can help tell beef’s positive story.
  • Provide leadership through research that attracts partnerships.
  • Proactively tell sustainability and quality-assurance program stories.
  • Communicate quality assurance results.

Editor’s Note: The above article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal. It may not be reprinted without express permission of the Angus Journal. To request reprint permission, contact the editor at 816-383-5200.

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