By AgForce Cattle President Will Wilson.
The release of the third annual instalment of the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, or ABSF, last week was a bit of a wake up call for producers.
The ABSF program was initiated by producers many years ago to highlight to consumers the industry’s ‘good news story’ on improving sustainability – it is essentially our ‘social licence to operate’.
ABSF 3.0 for the most part is a proud endorsement of the enormous strides the beef industry has made in meeting consumer demands.
But there are many areas that need significant improvement.
The main issue is that it has drifted somewhat from its original intent, the reason being that producers have allowed other links in the supply chain to take the reins.
Rather than being a grassroots-led initiative, it has adopted something of a top-down approach.
This presents a terrific opportunity for producers, many of whom have survived a terrible couple of years but have still managed to improve their practices, their sustainability and their profitability.
It highlights to me a critical need – ensuring producers are at the forefront of telling our industry’s great story.
Consumers are demonstrating not only a growing demand for our high-quality beef but ever more demanding outcomes in terms of environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and community benefits.
They don’t just want to buy a steak, they want to buy an ideal. We must provide both.
While all parts of the supply chain are willing to – and have – played their part in improving sustainability outcomes, the public gaze is on producers.
For example, we have a terrific carbon story.
Since 2005, we have reduced on-farm emissions by 56 per cent and. by making our cattle operations work with the environment, are on track to be carbon neutral by 2030.
The ABSF misses the boat on this great story, among others, because it doesn’t have a farm focus.
This our opportunity, as producers, to step up and again take the lead on the ABSF as well as others, like the Red Meat, that will drive the industry forward.
Because if we don’t lead, others will. And producers will be left with the hind teat.