In response to the growing consumer concern around sustainably sourced foods, U.S. retailers, cattleman, restaurant operators, and nonprofits have formed the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB). The diverse group will represent various viewpoints from across state and industry lines.
“This is really the first sustainability effort that's focused on U.S. beef production and nothing else. It's an independent and transparent multi-stakeholder initiative that advances, supports, and communicates continuous improvements in the sustainability of the U.S. beef value chain,” says Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, vice president of Cargill Value Added Meats and interim chair of the USRSB.
Currently the group has less than 50 member organizations, but the number could grow since membership will remain open until June 1. McDonald’s, Tyson Foods, Walmart, The Nature Conservancy, as well as several livestock associations and agriculture institutes are among the founding members. Johnson-Hoffman says that collaborative work had been ongoing for a long time, and some of the founding members were instrumental in creating the formal group last fall.
Adapting principles and criteria from the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), which was formed in 2012, the USRSB, like the GRSB, will not mandate universal standards or regulate its members; rather it will create guidelines.
“We know that one of the initial things we're going to do is interpret the Global Roundtable principles and criteria for the U.S. production system and for the U.S. environment,” Johnson-Hoffman says. “We will develop indicators for sustainability for U.S. beef production and then we will also have pilot projects that will test theories and see what kinds of practices might improve the sustainability of beef production in the U.S.”
Johnson-Hoffman adds that USRSB’s ability to align its efforts with different beef-producing countries through GSRB is a “tremendous gift.”
Domestic organizations that may be considering joining USRSB can learn more about the group on its website, ursrsb.org, which has information on its mission, membership, dues, leadership opportunities, and more.
Beyond the June 1 deadline, USRSB does not yet have a definitive timeline. But then again, sustainability is a fluid concept.
“Where we are today doesn't necessarily tell us where we will be in five years,” Johnson-Hoffman says. “We expect that as the science develops around beef sustainability and sustainable production that we will be use able to use that developing and evolving science in order to drive continuous improvement in the U.S.”
By Nicole Duncan