Sustainability continues to be a major focus for Cargill, says a company official who spoke at the Farms at the Table conference hosted by Farm and Food Care in Saskatoon last month.
“Sustainability is important to Cargill’s strategic direction. It’s a key focus of our organization,” Jeff Wildeman said.
“Here’s the thing: other large consumer processed goods companies are making significant commitments towards this and this will be driven all the way back through the supply chain.”
Wildeman said his company launched the sustainable canola program several years ago as a way to gain access to a new market in Europe.
The European Union has a goal of 20 percent of its energy coming from renewable energy sources by 2020. The biodiesel opportunity will increase with about 27 percent coming from renewable sources by 2030.
“From a Canadian standpoint, these are things that we’re doing already and it’s really about not growing crops on biodiverse ground like wetlands, forests or protected lands and cannot endanger or damage animal habitat or use child labour,” he said.
As a result, Cargill is launching a new program for Canada called the Biomass Biofuels voluntary scheme (2BSv). Wildeman said it will allow the company to increase its purchases from farmers who are certified within the program for the European market.
“This doesn’t have us telling farmers how to grow their crops; rather, it’s capturing the information and making sure there’s sustainable criteria for the European Union,” he said.
“What that really does is it creates market access for our products into the European market.”
Knowing Your Roots from farm to table is another program that helps educate customers on the health and functional benefits of oleic and classic canola oil compared to other oils on the market while creating transparency.
“The most exciting thing is to watch a farmer sit down with a chef in Chicago who’s using the product,” Wildeman said.
“Both of them just want to feed people in a nutritious way … so how do you tell that story and learn from one another?”
Through a pilot project launched in 2017 with General Mills, Cargill’s oat division is working on the Canadian Field Print Initiative for sustainability indicators.
Producers enter legal land descriptions and all relevant information in four key areas: soil erosion risk indicator, energy use indicator, land use efficiency indicator and climate impact indicator.
Thirty growers and more than 42,000 acres of oats signed up in the first years, which created an additional database and opportunity for producers to assess their efficiencies and practices against others in their province.
Follow-up meetings allowed producers to learn more about the connection to the supply chain and what end-use customers are looking for.
Wildeman said he is particularly excited about another new program called Honeysuckle White, which is a traceable turkey pilot that was launched in Texas for the American Thanksgiving holiday.
Using block chain technology, Cargill put bar codes on fresh turkeys for sale in grocery stores. Consumers scanning the bar code were treated to a picture of the farm, including background information that showcased the producer’s operation.
“Early indications are that this has been extremely well received,” he said.
“This could be a real game changer and one that I’m excited about .… We hear people say, ‘we want to know where our food came from.’ What a great opportunity to take your smartphone and go, ‘I know where that turkey came from,’ and gain that perspective.”
Wildeman said Cargill is also working on a beef sustainability acceleration pilot and chose Canada because of the country’s strong industry support and established collaborations.
The goals are to demonstrate sustainability with Canadian beef production, promote the vitality of the Canadian beef industry and develop scalable solutions with retailers.
The year-long initiative uses an existing radio frequency identification tag system to track beef through a sustainable supply chain.
A variety of technologies will be explored such as DNA testing and block chain technology, which uses the traceable and informative bar coding system.
“What this looks like a year from now — not sure,” he said.
“I’m hoping it will tie the consumer back to the farmer.”