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Industry principles for sustainable beef farming

The SAI (Sustainable Agriculture Initiative) has launched its principles for Sustainable Beef Farming at the “Beefing up Sustainability” seminar on 26th November 2013. These principles represent the food industry’s position on achieving sustainability in beef farming. The ambition is that the principles will lead the way to beef production that is better able to help protect the environment,and deliver improved social and economic conditions for farmers, their employees and local communities.

The seminar included speakers: from McDonald’s Europe, representatives to the European Parliament, representatives from the European commission, FAO, University of Leuven, FAI Farms, Bord Bia and the SAI Platform. There were some differences in the positions taken on whether 'less beef consumption' was an option to consider.

The outcome of the seminar was agreement on on a list of principles in four main areas;

  • Sustainable farming systems; e.g. site selection and animal feeding
  • Economic sustainability; e.g. biosecurity and economic viability
  • Social sustainability; e.g. human and animal health and welfare, human rights, landscape management 
  • Environmental sustainability; e.g. soil, water, climate change, waste, biodiversity

The principles and the document in which they are outlined cover activities from birth to farm gate, including the production of forage and/or maintenance of pastures. Transport of live animals off the farm  as well as production of feed are excluded.  Note that these set out principles rather then specify targets.  They do not prescribe or proscribe any particular farming systems or practices.

The next step is to develop a set of Practices providing guidance as to how these principles might be applied on the farm.  

We’d be very interested in FCRN member’s comments on these Principles. You can post your views in the forums on our website (note that you have to be signed in as a member to do so) or you can post a comment below this newsletter article on the website. If you need help to login or have questions you can always contact us at info(at) or taragarnett(at)

You can read the event summary here and a document outlining the new principles here. has also written an article here.

For more resources see also our research library pages on Meat and Industry actions. FCRN's Tara Garnett has also published articles focused on aspects of livestock – see for example:  Livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions: impacts and options for policy makers, here. Briefing paper on Livestock, feed and food security here and lastly also a conference paper Animal feed, livestock and green house gas emissions: what are the issues? here. CCAFS has also posted a blog on beef production in Brazil, here

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