Writes: Tjonane Matla
Grassfed Association of South Africa (GFSA) held its first Annual General Conference at Aloe Grove Guest Farm just outside Queenstown on the 21st of October 2017. According to the Founding Member and Chairman Adrian Cloete while opening the conference, GFSA is a farmer’s organisation established to enable farmers to produce certified free range and /or grass-fed meat for consumers.
The organisation that nearly took four years of endless efforts to set up wants every farmer to be able to market their product as directly to consumers as possible and create a platform for trade of grass-fed and free-range meat nationally and internationally. GFSA has 30 members scattered around different provinces of South Africa. The GFSA board is made out of four members namely: Adrian Cloete, Herman Nel, Grant Odgers and Caroline McCann.
The GFSA Conference had very important components consisting of study tours to the nearby farms from the conference venue. Pieter and Marietha Prinsloo were our first hosts then Tian Landman, where we learned a lot about rotational grassing. The Prinsloos also run Langside Meat, a brand that uses the GFSA logo on its packaging.
This family business established by father and son, Pieter and Koot Prinsloo who are established cattle ranchers in the Queenstown district of the Eastern Cape, formed a partnership with producers Tian Landman (whose farm was part of the study tour) with six other farmers in the region. All members who supply Langside Meats are audited and registered by South African Meat Industry Company (SAMIC) as Grass-Fed Producers under the GFASA protocol, which is basically to promote the common interests of persons and business involved in the grass-fed industry in South Africa.
The four founding members’ council furnished the conference with relevant reports that were not limited to history and industry overview, and included legal legitimacy mandates, board recommendations followed by election of new board, where all members were voted back to their respective offices unopposed. Based on the industry analysis, the board had recommended amongst other key points, to establish a mechanism that can audit or police farmers on the issue that some farmers who are not members of this association claim grass fed, a condition that can make customers lose confidence in the brand GFSA.
This motion was tabulated following serious setbacks experienced by the members as there were complaints that, while other farmers are cheating the consumers and claiming grass fed, SAMIC has no capacity to do audits, and for a young and very vibrant initiative, this seem to kill the brand and initiative.
However, it is worth noting that the conference was strongly against the move, due to the fact that the association did not have the capacity to establish a policing organisation, but instead the association should focus on doing the right thing, which is not limited to promoting the brand, but also genuinely advocate for the brand until customers become part of the advocacy team. While the motion was dropped, other members who had been in the industry long enough like Pieter Prinsloo were to meet SAMIC and help them solve bottlenecks identified by GFASA.
The board had also recommended that a number of sub-committees be established so as to spread the workload and improve efficiency, however after serious debate the conference decided otherwise and relevant subcommittees should be structured in future.
Partners, Associates and Alliances
- GFSA is currently liaising and engaging with large retailers in SA, numerous butchers, meat traders, deboning plants, restaurants and hotel groups. On environmental matters the organisation is working with Conservation SA and the SA Savory Institute on grass roots level upliftment projects.
- GFSA assists and enters into dialogue with numerous universities as well as the Agricultural Research Council, especially with regards to research and studies in animal and meat production.
- GFSA is aligned with breeders associations, government departments, producers’ organisations and consumer groups. According to the board GFSA seek to grow local and international partners, associations and alliance members.
GFSA is formed on the principle that farmers must farm ruminant livestock in accordance with the following:
- Animals must be humanely reared and farmers must proactively protect their livestock against disease, internal and external parasites.
- Feeding as an imperative factor in livestock production is culminated to a free range system and this means feeding livestock more on grazing pastures. Ruminants require a widely varied series of grass types to fulfill a well-balanced diet, in the absence of which, supplements of deficient nutrients may be necessary.
- Moreover, animals must be free from administered growth enhancing drugs like growth hormones stimulants, routine antibiotics with systematic effects and beta antagonists.
The ultimate aim is to produce in a manner that contributes to a sustainable natural environment and market in a manner mutually beneficial to the producer (fair price) and the consumer (quality