Demand for sustainably produced beef is on the rise as the sector comes under increasing scrutiny over its impact on animals and the environment, according to a new report.
Rabobank's latest global Beef Quarterly report said momentum had been building in sustainable beef over the past 12 months, and was forecast to develop even further in the year ahead.
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The report said while the concept of sustainable beef production was not new, the past 12 months had seen a noticeable step up in the number and variety of initiatives related to sustainable beef across the globe.
The majority of the initiatives had been market-driven, either led by food retailers and food service companies or developed by beef processors and producers in response to changing market dynamics.
Examples cited in the report include:
· McDonald's commitment to purchasing sustainable beef based on the principles and criteria established by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).
· The creation of the Brazilian Association of Carbon-Neutral Meat Producers in February 2019 to develop both supply of, and demand for, carbon-neutral beef. Brazilian processor, Marfrig, has already offered to deliver the first carbon-neutral beef products in 2019.
· Cargill's announcement in July 2019 that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its beef production chain in North America by 30 percent by 2030.
Rabobank sustainability and animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate said an increased focus on sustainable beef would create opportunities for New Zealand beef suppliers who are able to meet required standards.
"New Zealand is in a strong position to capitalise on these opportunities, with many aspects of New Zealand's extensive, pasture-based beef production systems already aligning closely to what the market is asking for," he said.
"However, New Zealand producers will be increasingly required to demonstrate through verifiable evidence exactly how they are meeting these standards."
The Rabobank report said the pace of change around sustainability in beef supply chains was set to increase further.
"The market will continue to be the main driver of changes in most parts of the world, supported by the actions of governments, NGOs and pressure groups, as well as investors and the rise of alternative proteins," it said.
In the global beef market generally, the report said current dominant themes were strong beef demand in China and trade uncertainty - including the US-China trade war, Brexit, and new Mercosur access to the EU.
For New Zealand, farm-gate prices were expected to remain firm over the next quarter, with some potential for upward pressure on prices due to favourable export market conditions and tight domestic supplies.