Through the project, the company claims to have demonstrated that beef sustainability is sustainable.
The pilot moved the biggest buyer of Canadian beef one step closer to ensuring all of its beef comes from verified sustainable sources, something McDonald’s said was a “major milestone”.
Its journey to improve sustainable and ethical practices started 30 months ago when the company announced a global aspiration to source all of its food and packaging from sustainable sources. Part of the statement of intent from one of the world’s most influential, and at times derided, food companies was to advance sustainable beef practices in Canada.
Through the pilot project, McDonald’s tracked the journey of nearly 9,000 head of cattle – the equivalent of 2.4m single burgers. From gate to plate the cattle were raised on, or handled by, verified sustainable Canadian beef businesses.
In total, 182 operations (121 beef farms, 24 back-grounding facilities, 24 feedlots, two processors and one burger plant) completed the third-party verification needed to supply McDonald’s with sustainable beef.
“The Canadian beef industry is one of the best in the world and McDonald’s Canada remains committed to serving our guests only 100% Canadian beef,” said John Betts, president of McDonald’s Canada. “The pilot has demonstrated the remarkable progress and success that can come when industry and ranchers work together towards a more sustainable future.”
McDonald’s sources 65m pounds of beef from Canadian farmers every year to make its burgers. The entirety of beef sold in McDonald’s Canada restaurants comes from the country and the fast-food behemoth felt Canada was a good place to trial its sustainability pilot.
The pilot could be a breakthrough moment and may radically change the way big food corporations source their meat in the future. It has shown that sustainable practices can be verified through the entire supply chain. The scheme is also the first to achieve all of the principles set out by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).
It is now the responsibility of the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) to create a framework to allow the scheme to be adopted officially. Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, cattle rancher and chair of the CRSB, said the pilot had helped progress beef industry by providing “new insights that will advance… sustainability efforts within the Canadian beef industry”.
“As a progressive burger company, we are changing the way we source and serve food in our restaurants,” said Steve Easterbrook, CEO of McDonald’s, in a press statement.
“We have an important role in helping to 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.”