The scheme, which has been running for three months, was launched to test and validate the audit and traceability systems necessary to meet the requirements of the Certified Sustainable Beef Framework established by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).
Billed as the first of its kind in the world, the pilot is a voluntary program that enables cattle producers and beef processors to demonstrate the sustainability of their operations while at the same time supporting the retail and food service industry in their sustainable beef sourcing efforts.
Cargill said the first three months of the pilot have yielded “encouraging results, proving the model works and demonstrating significant potential to scale the program to deliver a greater volume of certified sustainable beef to Canadian consumers”.
For contributions made during the first quarter of the pilot, participating cattle ranchers were rewarded CAD$10-per-head for qualifying cattle that could be tracked through audited sustainable operations from farm to fork.
“We are encouraged by the pilot’s first quarter results. It proved that a significant volume of beef can be successfully traced through a certified supply chain for the participating customers,” said Gurneesh Bhandal, Cargill’s beef sustainability manager in Toronto. “By adding more producers to the pilot, we can supply more customers with Canadian beef from sustainable sources.”
The pilot has tested and developed methodology for tracking eligible cattle through audited live animal supply chains. It also tested the methodology for tracking supply chain sustainability certifications from the beef carcass to finished products. By coupling live cattle and beef product traceability, Cargill’s Canadian customers can demonstrate the sustainability of their entire supply chain.
The cattle are tracked as they move through audited operations by the Beef Info-Exchange System’s (BIXS) RFID tagging system, from the time producers tagged them through processing at Cargill’s High River beef plant. BIXS is acting as the clearing house for the Canadian Sustainability Acceleration Pilot and will disperse the first round of credit payments to cattle producers by 19 March.
In the first quarter, customers paid for beef delivered from an audited sustainable supply chain, and these payments funded the $10-per-head credits producers received for their involvement and commitment to Canadian beef sustainability. The pilot was able to successfully certify more than 550,000 pounds of beef according to the CRSB Framework standards and supply chain guidelines.
“We appreciate the enthusiasm we’ve seen and momentum that’s been generated in the first few months of the pilot, and we are encouraged by the continued interest shown from additional cow/calf producers, feedlot operators and processing plants,” added Bhandal.
Earlier this month, Where Food Comes From (WFCF) became the pilot’s second auditing body for cattle producers who want to demonstrate the sustainability of their operations. The introduction of another auditing firm gives producers options when deciding to participate. WFCF was the sole verification partner for the 2014-2016 McDonald’s Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot project and is eager to continue supporting Canada’s beef sustainability efforts.