What Costco and UK free trade talks have in common when it comes to beef

What Costco and UK free trade talks have in common when it comes to beef

Beef
Australian beef in Costco stores.

Australian beef in Costco stores.

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How sustainability is manifesting itself in Australia's red meat business

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FROM big corporations factoring greenhouse gas emissions into procurement decisions and brands underpinned by carbon neutral claims to trade deals honing in on environmental issues, how the concept of sustainability is manifesting itself in beef business was put under the spotlight at a recent industry webinar.

Featuring the leaders of two beef industry peak councils, an internationally-based red meat trading analyst and the Assistant Vice President Meat of Costco Wholesale Bob Huskey, the panel discussion dealt with both the opportunities and challenges the concept of sustainability was presenting.

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Mr Huskey, based in Washington, Seattle, has been in the meat game for 22 years and now oversees all proteins for Costco, an outfit which has 795 warehouses across 13 countries including 12 in Australia.

A big customer of Australian red meat, especially lamb, Costco has been building sustainability into its sourcing decisions more and more, Mr Huskey said.

It has even established a sustainability department.

"It's important to us that we are doing the right thing on issues such as greenhouse gas and deforestation," Mr Huskey told the webinar, organised by the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework's consultative committee.

"Secondly, at the rate at which we are growing if we don't change our sourcing practices, we won't have anything to sell in the future."

Meat & Livestock Australia's manager of global trade development Tim Ryan said sustainability was now featuring in some trade agreements.

"In particular, as we enter into negotiations with the United Kingdom and Europe, having sustainability credentials we can demonstrate will really help," he said.

Brands were also starting to use these type of credentials in international markets, he said.

"In Singapore, where I am, I can go to the butchers and get two carbon neutral beef brands - it's not mainstream but there are niches in the market where consumers want a sustainable product."

Chief executive officer of the Australian Meat Industry Council Patrick Hutchinson said the processing sector was making large investments to tackle areas such as reduced water usage and utilisation of alternative energy - a number of plants were now using biogas, for example.

He said there were a number of individual producers and brands employing sustainability claims but the focus needed to shift to what 'Industry Inc' could achieve.

"What sort of sustainability process can we apply where all-of-industry plays a part and sets credentials - at the moment those credentials are being set in very specific, tight supply chains underpinned by brands," he said.

Chief executive officer with the Australian Live Exporters' Council Mark Harvey-Sutton felt sustainability manifests itself in how Australia conducts itself in-market.

"We are the only country in the world that has an assurance system around animal welfare that goes into market," he said.

"The other aspect is the trade dynamic. One of the things we've seen since COVID-19 commenced is a growing emphasis on food security in our trading markets.

"Our sector generally supplies developing markets and during the pandemic, food security concerns were heightened.

"What sustainability could mean in the future for us is what role we can play around food security."

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The story What Costco and UK free trade talks have in common when it comes to beef first appeared on Farm Online.

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