Cargill’s sustainable beef pilot program finds willing producers

LONDON, Ont. — Build it and they will come. That philosophy seems to be working for Cargill Meats’ sustainable beef program.

Since last October, Cargill offered a per head payment to producers who are able to supply beef that went through an audited program with indictors established by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

A pilot program was launched last October and at the end of the first quarter in December, 582,000 pounds of qualified beef were generated.

In the second quarter, nearly 1.1 million lb. were certified and in quarter three, 9.5 million lb. were recognized at the feedlot and packer levels with audits expected from participating ranchers to come soon.

“It is a low number on the grand scale of things but considering we were starting from zero, it was great to see a number of that scale,” said Emily Murray of Cargill Meats.

Money is going back to producers through BIXS, an online information tracking system, acting as a clearing house to move funds to the program and producers. Payments have been $10 to $20 a head.

Cargill is working with BIXS and the Verified Beef Production program to get producers to meet sustainability requirements set down by the roundtable to illustrate how producers care for cattle, the land and people.

To qualify for a financial credit, cattle must be processed at the Cargill plant in High River, Alta., which has been audited as meeting the roundtable standards. Cattle must move through operations registered with BIXS to allow for tracking. Only cattle moving through a fully certified chain from cow-calf, feedlot and packer are guaranteed a financial credit.

“In order for cattle to qualify and the beef through the processor to qualify to be eligible for claims, cattle have to be traced through an audited supply chain,” Murray said Aug. 14 at the value creation committee meeting of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

Five principles of sustainability have been developed and can be measured.

“Sustainability is about the treatment of the animal, the treatment of land. It is not about the value of the carcass or the grading,” she said.

McDonald’s Canada was the first company to advertise that some of its beef comes from sustainable sources. Other companies have expressed interest in joining and earning the right to carry the sustainability logo on menus in restaurants or on packages at the retail counter.

“We want to see the certified sustainable beef logo on products across Canada,” she said.

The next step is to increase supply in Eastern Canada so more producers are being encouraged to sign on. In addition, an audit is coming for the Cargill plant located at Guelph, Ont., to handle eastern-raised cattle.

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