Producers test McDonald’s sustainable beef requirements

McDonald’s Canada has released its requirements for sustainable beef production.

The fast food chain has committed to offering beef produced in a sustainable way from Canadian farms by 2016 and has promised to fund the verification process for up to 300 participants.

Only a portion of the Canadian beef served in 2016 will come from verified sustainable operations, said McDonald’s spokesperson Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stillwell.

“It will not be a huge quantity that has gone through all those steps,” he said.

Eventually the corporation wants all its supplies to come from verified sustainable production units including fish, dairy, eggs, oils and fibre used for packaging.

So far, nearly 150 ranchers and processors have been testing the requirements in a pilot program, and 34 have been verified. Indicators are offered for calf-cow operators, fed cattle and processors.

The five indicator categories cover:

  • Natural resources, such as en-suring soil health, water quality, wildlife and plant biodiversity.
  • Community and people, which includes commitment to support local communities.
  • Animal health and welfare, mitigating-minimizing animal stress and pain.
  • Food, such as ensuring food safety and beef quality.
  • Efficiency and innovation, such as recycling and energy efficiency.

The private verification company Where Food Comes From will evaluate sustainable practices among participating beef producers, and professionally trained verifiers will score the indicators on a five point scale. A score of three or higher is needed on critical indicators, and an average of three or higher is needed for each of the five principles.

The process will eventually be handed to the Canadian Round Table on Sustainable Beef.

The roundtable has 42 members and 40 observers. The crops sector is developing its own sustainable requirements, and eventually all sectors will collaborate to create indicators for all of Canadian agriculture, she said.

Canada is testing the program, which starts at the cow-calf level.

McDonald’s did not request feed from verified sustainable farms because the Canadian round table for sustainable crops has just begun, said Fitzpatrick-Stillwell.

Eventually the company plans to take what was learned in Canada to its restaurants worldwide.

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