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McDonald's Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot final report available

Now the industry needs to decide the pathway forward

Posted: June 2, 2016

It had the feel of a warm family gathering with a slight undercurrent of anxiousness. Beef producers involved in McDonald's Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot gathered in Calgary, Alta. at the invitation of the program sponsor to hear firsthand the details of the project final report. And to be thanked by the sponsor for their efforts in an industry first, a clear sense they were being feted as pioneers of a new era of production.

Producer guests were joined by media, executives from McDonald's, the World Wildlife Fund US, elected officials along with selected industry players many affiliated with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). That last group will be on the frontlines as the beef industry wrestles with how best to use this information going forward to build a more permanent version of the initiative.

Based on the details of the report provided and the media and industry chatter the project has garnered along the way, it is fair to say this is a beef family adventure that gained appeal as it moved through 30 months of sometimes tough slogging.

Global vs Canadian Roundtables

As background the CSRB is part of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GSRB). McDonald's was a founding member of the GRSB and that group was the one which developed the baseline criteria and indicators, which the Canadian pilot project used as the basis of the criteria and indicators for the verifications in Canada.

The CRSB is currently deciding what their indicators will look like and the role that the McDonald's pilot indicators and criteria play in that. The CRSB already has a number of members across all sectors in the value chain and their memberships are open to anyone in the industry.

Key accomplishments

There are a number of key accomplishments. Perhaps most overarching is the sense of beef industry collaboration that developed around it, family members that don't always play well together.

Another was its scale. The project numbers are significant. As one of Canada's largest beef purchasers, McDonald's Canada followed nearly 9,000 head of Canadian cattle, or, as the company news release puts it, 2.4 million patties. One hundred eighty two operations in total including 121 ranches, 34 backgrounding operations, 24 feedlots, two beef processors and one patty plant.

A third was the success of the producers who put their name on the line to be guinea pigs in the test verification process. This is the first program to put the GRSB principles and criteria to work across the entire beef value chain. By all accounts producer assessments within that effort were very successful, a solid endorsement of the frequent industry claim that Canada's beef farmers and ranchers are already doing many of the things the modern consumer thinks they should.

"As a progressive burger company, we are changing the way we source and serve food in our restaurants. We have an important role in helping build a more sustainable food system globally through initiatives such as the sustainable beef pilot in Canada and we're committed to continuing this important work around the world," says Steve Easterbrook, president and CEO, McDonald's Corporation.

"The McDonald's Pilot has provided us with new insights that will support our thinking and direction as we advance existing and new sustainability efforts within the Canadian beef industry," adds Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, rancher and chair of the CRSB who in many ways has become the face of the industry efforts.

Final report here

The McDonald's Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot final report and other information about the pilot is available at www.mcdvsb.com.


Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.


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