Beef processors will also have their own set of ‘indicators’ for producing sustainable beef.
The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has 19 indicators for processors, covering areas such as natural resource management; people and community; animal health and welfare; food security and efficiency; and innovation. Grades, scored out of three, will be given to specifics such as air impact and water use, land and ecosystem health, worker safety, community involvement, career development potential, animal housing conditions, efforts to minimize animal pain and stress, management of sick animals, food safety programming, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and efforts to improve further.
The facilities will also be audited. Audits may be based on existing management plans or emergency protocols; invoices to measure energy or water use; interviews with staff; unit measurements (such as the amount of carbon dioxide produced per head or water used per kilogram of beef); available first aid training and personal protective equipment; injury tracking, professional development opportunities; employee training; research investment; and technology among others.
On-site audits will be part of the process, and there will be followups to track improvement.
The roundtable also plans to compare its program with existing verification programs, said Monica Hadarits, the organization’s programs and verification director.
“One of the pillars of work that we’re doing as part of our verification framework is also looking at equivalency and developing a process for recognizing other programs because we realize that there are already a lot of programs out there, potentially, that address one or more of the indicators that we’re looking at,” she said.
The program does not consider secondary processors, largely because such facilities do not handle live cattle.
Economics, likewise, had no direct mention, but will be an underpinning theme of the entire framework, Hadarits said.
“They also have to be balanced with economic sustainability as well,” she said.
The roundtable has already anticipated a number of challenges, including more cost and investment for processors and the risk that indicators may actually work at cross-purposes. Food safety, for example, may run up against efforts to lower water use while increased automation may bolster innovation, but cause job loss.
“One of the things that we found with testing our beef production indicators is there’s a lot of overlap or crossover and we’ve actually found that they’re more complementary than contradictory,” Hadarits said.