Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef not the rancher’s friend

Bobby Giesse
President, Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

American cattle producers/ranchers are currently under assault by a world-wide organization known as GRSB (Greater Roundtable for Sustainable Beef). One large national cattle organization (NCBA-National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) is on their Board. Another large national cattle organization (R-CALF USA) and several state groups such as ICOW-Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming are opposed to it.

After a recently published opinion piece by the Vice President of Government Affairs from NCBA promoting the wonderful marketing side of GRSB, ICOW is offering a different side of the story about GRSB.

Mr. Lane says that NCBA isn’t a member of WWF (World Wildlife Federation) and WWF is not a member of NCBA. True, however, they are both members of the GRSB. He says that no checkoff dollars have been sent to WWF. True. The beef checkoff dollars were sent to the GRSB, as seen on the WWF Summary Report on 2013 Workshops which shows the beef check off logo side by side with the WWF logo. Mr. Lane also states that “Cattle producers have always been good stewards of our natural resources and we’re continually making our animals more efficient.” True, again. A key point here is being stewards of our natural resources. The GRSB is one more tool in the One World Order plan. If they can control our natural resources, they control our lives. The following is taken from their website-

The framework of the GRSB (Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef) consists of six constituencies: producers and producer associations, the commerce and processing sector, retail companies, civil societies, allied industry initiatives and national or regional roundtables (one of which is the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef or USRSB). Of the general assembly, 20 members make up the Board of Directors; and six positions assemble the executive committee. The Board of Directors currently include among others Cargill, Rabobank, McDonalds, National Wildlife Federation, World Wildlife Fund, along with NCBA.

The Board creates technical working groups and guides their scope of work. It is through these working groups that most of the GRSB’s work is accomplished. The GRSB defines sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes Planet, People, Animals, and Progress. Their criteria are based on environmental stewardship objectives which are attained through adaptive management, with activities monitored to achieve continuous improvement of measurable natural resource management outcomes.

Six High-Priority Indicators were developed: water resources, land resources, air and greenhouse gas emissions, efficiency and yield, animal health and well-being, employee safety and well-being. The Sustainability Indicators (the GRSB’s fancy term) are simply the ways they dictate to follow the “metrics” or the laws you have to follow to be part of them so you can sell your beef. Metrics are activities connected to each of the High-Priority Indicators. They outline ways an operation or company can measure progress. The approach and development of metrics was put forth by each supply-chain sector with an expectation to actively engage other stakeholder groups, including civil society and allied industry members. The sustainability assessment guides are technical guidance documents that provide additional tools and resources for the supply chain. These documents outline the purpose, approach and practical application of each metric. (

What that web site says is those metrics will manage your ranch. “Compliance with applicable laws is an underlying assumption and expectation…In the absence of law, or where there is a difference between these laws and these criteria, it is expected that the more stringent of the two will be adhered to.” In the area of animal husbandry, following “OIE- the World Organization for Animal Health, guidance on animal health and welfare, including the five freedoms…is an underlying assumption that there is compliance with national and international regulations on animal health and welfare.” (

Some of the details are onerous through the third-party verification process from verifiers such as the WWF, who will monitor your business. You have to show receipts or bills for energy use, conversions to higher efficiency light bulbs, having an approved environmental farm plan, etc.* You are no longer in charge because the non-ag members such as Walmart, Costco and Cargill have decided your operating practices. But you (not them) have to prove “baseline knowledge or data for the operation.”* If you don’t agree to those standards, your product will not be marketable if they can ultimately control a majority of the markets. That is what happened to the poultry and hog industry. They all became “standardized” to certain metrics and sustainability guides when the market share became controlled by bigger powers. The GRSB sustainable beef standards are set by such folks as those who have the following on their web site:

“Beef production is a major threat to natural ecosystems globally, as areas of forests are converted to pastures. Natural grasslands are often also converted to more productive, introduced pastures resulting in the loss of biodiversity in these key ecosystems.

Livestock farming is one of the main contributors to soil erosion around the world. Turning forests into pasture and overgrazing, or using marginal lands to grow feed, can lead to extreme loss of topsoil and organic matter that may take decades or centuries to replace.

In addition, the conversion of carbon-sequestering landscapes, beef cattle create methane, a potent Greenhouse Gas, as they digest grass. This methane has a significant impact on our changing climate…” and the list goes on. (wwf.panda/our_work/food/sustainable_production/beef)

Those are the negative images that true environmental producers are currently fighting. Sustainable ranchers must manage with the goal to enhance their environment or they wouldn’t stay in the business for several generations. In fact, one of production agriculture’s usual antagonists, Friends of the Earth, said in a letter, signed by 50 environmental groups, on June 27, 2018, “This USRSB includes over 100 members from the retail, civil society, producer, processor and allied industry sector who are falsely portraying themselves as promoting a “U.S. beef value chain” that is “environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.” Key USRSB leaders include JBS (the world’s largest beef processor), McDonald’s, Arby’s, Merck and Elanco; the very same companies that for years have opposed or undermined numerous policies that would bring us closer to sustainability in the beef sector. Nature Conservancy is also part of the Executive team and WWF is a founding member.

The groups are especially concerned that member retailers and restaurants like Walmart, Costco, McDonald’s, Darden, Arby’s, Culver’s and Wendy’s will use the framework’s meager and misguided metrics as a basis for “sustainable” beef claims—as McDonald’s did last year—thereby undercutting truly sustainable, organic and/or regenerative beef producers.

In addition, we question the commitment of key USRSB industry leaders to advancing the core tenets of sustainability. This is because even while participating in the USRSB, leading corporate actors in the beef and restaurant industries (and their trade group representatives) have worked behind the scenes for years to prevent, delay or weaken federal and state policy protections for America’s environment, climate, public health, animal welfare, workers and producers.” (

This is unfortunate because as the letter concludes “well documented research and evidence shows that well-managed ranches and farms can provide valuable benefits to society.” American producers can’t do that if they are not able to maintain their rights to run their business according to their personal values, knowledge and experience without first obtaining approval from an overhead governing body such as the GRSB.

*from the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Sustainability Indicators, Spring 2017 In response to a recently published editorial opinion by Ethan Lane, NCBA V.P. of Government Affairs, ICOW (Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming) offers another side of the GRSB (Greater Roundtable for Sustainable Beef) issue.