Helping lead a global movement forBeef Sustainability

We’ve been working with farmers, environmental groups and governments for more than a decade to help advance beef farming and production practices. And we’re making progress.



Why it matters

Our burgers are some of our most iconic menu items, made from 100% ground beef. We’re one of the world’s biggest buyers of beef, so – although we don’t own farms or rear animals directly – it’s no surprise that we take seriously our responsibility to help lead the industry toward more sustainable production practices.

We support beef production that’s environmentally sound, protects animal health and welfare, and improves farmer and community livelihoods, and we have done for over a decade. This global movement is gaining extensive momentum through conversations, collaborations, pilot programs, and global and local roundtables, and is helping influence not just beef in McDonald’s supply chain, but beef production around the world.

We will continue to collaborate within the industry to help find solutions to produce beef with less impact. Demand for meat is expected to grow substantially in the coming decades, meaning we need to find solutions to produce more with less impact. Our work on climate change mitigation and conserving forests are examples of how we’re helping to drive change.

Our Beef Sustainability Report (pdf, 19.8MB) shows our journey so far.


On this page:

Our approach | Our actions | Our goals and progress


Our approach


It’s easy to use terms like beef sustainability but what does it actually mean? For us, it’s about beef production that’s environmentally sound, protects animal health and welfare, and improves farmer and community livelihoods.

We cannot drive beef sustainability alone. Since 2011, we have worked closely with industry leaders as a founding member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), which brings together stakeholders from across the supply chain – from farmer and rancher to packer-processer, retailer and the consumer, as well as non-governmental organizations. This diverse representation builds constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. Through this work, in 2014 the GRSB collectively finalized a global set of principles and criteria to:

  • Manage natural resources responsibly.
  • Respect people and communities.
  • Care for the welfare of animals.
  • Ensure the safety and quality of beef.
  • Drive efficiency and innovation to reduce waste and improve economic viability.

We acknowledge that the way beef is produced and the associated impacts vary greatly from country to country. These principles guide us because we believe that no matter where in the world beef is produced or what type of production system, these principles hold true.

As part of the Company’s ethos to use our Scale for Good, we leverage our position on platforms like the GRSB to drive wider collaboration and action. We’ve helped set up similar multi-stakeholder platforms in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Australia, and participate in several others around the world.


“As one of the largest single customers of beef globally, McDonald’s is able to engage every point along the value chain. The Company helped create the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and plays a big part in supporting the local roundtables and groups working on beef sustainability around the world.”

Jason Clay, Senior Vice-President, Markets and Food, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

McDonald’s Beef Sustainability Program

Since the release of our global commitment to sustainable beef in 2014, we’ve released a Beef Sustainability Report (pdf, 19.8MB), which sets out our strategy, aims and achievements so far. It’s designed to empower beef producers to broaden their beef sustainability efforts within and beyond our supply chain, while strengthening beef farming communities. At the same time, we’re partnering with our suppliers, the GRSB and other roundtables to help conserve forests and other habitats, preserve the quantity and quality of water, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of beef production.

Across McDonald’s biggest beef sourcing regions, our goal is to promote beef sustainability programs that take sustainable farming practices to scale. We aim to engage key industry stakeholders to help develop initiatives aligned with the principles and criteria of the GRSB. We believe this will help build and accelerate the adoption of good practices throughout the beef sector.

Working closely with farmers, ranchers and our beef suppliers, we support the development of industry resources to help measure, benchmark and demonstrate advancements in beef sustainability that add value to all of our businesses. We encourage peer-to-peer knowledge sharing through initiatives such as our Flagship Farmers Program, which showcases farmers leading sustainable practices and equips them to share those practices with their peers to encourage wider adoption.

We are committed to working with partners around the world to innovate and discover new practices. Using agricultural and scientific expertise, we’ll assess and validate the impact and benefits of these new practices and solutions. We’ll then identify and engage progressive farmers to trial the cutting-edge practices and help scale them up.


“Without McDonald’s, the roundtable would not have made the global, industry-wide inroads it has toward making beef a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product. McDonald’s is also involved in many local offshoots of our work, demonstrating its commitment at every level.”

Dennis Laycraft, Immediate Past President, GRSB

Our beef sustainability work supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, specifically:

As well as these, we’ve mapped our Scale for Good initiatives to all 17 goals.


Our 2020 aspirational goals

As a part of our broader commitment, we have launched a new set of ambitious goals for 2020. By the end of 2020, in each of our top 10 beef sourcing countries (the U.S., Australia, Germany, Brazil, Ireland, Canada, France, New Zealand, the U.K. and Poland – which collectively represent more than 85% of our global beef volumes), we will:


Accelerate industry progress

Source a portion of our beef from suppliers participating in sustainability programs aligned with the GRSB principles and criteria, and that meet McDonald’s requirements1 for each applicable market.


Share knowledge and tools

Engage with local farmers through farmer outreach projects to help develop and share best practices related to our Priority Impact Areas.


Promote Flagship Farmers

Select and showcase McDonald’s Flagship Farmers to demonstrate leading best practices related to our Priority Impact Areas.


Pioneer new practices

Set up McDonald’s Progressive Farm Partnerships to trial and discover new practices related to our Priority Impact Areas.


Conserve forests

In regions with identified risks relating to the preservation of forests,2 verify that the beef sourced from those regions comes from farms where primary forests and high conservation value lands are preserved. Read more about our Commitment on Forests.


Our actions


Farmer-to-farmer initiatives

The farming community has a vital role to play in informing the development of industry tools for benchmarking, decision-making and measuring progress, as well as inspiring other farmers and developing new practices. We have pioneered various programs in partnership with our suppliers to support knowledge sharing between farmers, such as BEST Beef (Germany), McDonald’s Sustainable Beef Network (U.K. and Ireland), the Agro-Ecological Strategy (France) and the Young Farmer Program (in several countries), and actively participate in other programs including the Novo Campo project (Brazil).

Our Flagship Farmers Program showcases progressive farmers and producers, and offers an online resource for producers worldwide, so they can learn from those farming sustainably and share best practices. It also celebrates innovative solutions around issues such as soil health, animal welfare, ecosystem protection and GHG emissions. Established in Europe, Flagship Farmers is now being extended to our top 10 beef sourcing countries.


“Participation in a McDonald’s Sustainable Beef Club and the realization that steps to minimize our impact on the environment would actually put more money in our pockets really made us sit up and take notice.”

Larry Nugent, Dundrum Farm, County Armagh, U.K.

Forest-friendly burgers

We want you to have the confidence of knowing the beef we use only comes from farms that meet the criteria outlined in our Commitment on Forests. We’ve pledged to eliminate deforestation from our beef supply chain by 2020 by focusing on countries with identified deforestation risks. This commitment makes us one of the first global restaurant brands to take a stand to ensure forests are protected while beef is produced.


Knowing where food comes from is important to today’s consumer. Our food safety requirements help us ensure the quality and safety of our ingredients from farm to the front counter. In all countries where we source beef, we have traceability from the abattoirs through the processing plant and to McDonald’s restaurants. We audit the processors that supply our beef annually and 100% of them pass our strict requirements for food safety.

In many of these countries, traceability systems also exist to track further up the supply chain to the individual farms where animals are raised. In the countries where the infrastructure is not yet in place to do this, we will support the development of suitable traceability systems wherever possible.


That’s not all…

See how we’re addressing beef sustainability around the world.


Field of cows

An industry first for Canada

In 2016, we completed our first beef sustainability pilot program in Canada, the industry’s first initiative to bring the GRSB principles and criteria to life.


The Amazon forest

Beef sustainability in Brazil

Arcos Dorados, Latin America’s largest restaurant chain and one of the Company’s largest Franchisees, is working with the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock.


A cow sitting in a field

Beef sustainability in Europe

We buy around 2.5% of all beef produced in the European Union, sourced from approximately 470,000 farms, and are benchmarking the SAI Platform’s Beef Farm Sustainability Assessment tool against quality assurance programs throughout Europe.


Many cows standing in a green field

Beef sustainability in Ireland

As one of the largest purchasers of Irish beef, we work closely with Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), which runs the Origin Green program, the only sustainability program in the world to operate on a national scale.


A few cows standing in long grass

Advancing beef sustainability in the U.S.

As a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, we are working to advance beef sustainability through industry engagement, collaboration with ranchers and the full value chain, support for scientific inquiry and recognition of ranchers leading on sustainability.


Herd of cows in a field

Sustainable beef clubs in the UK and Ireland

McDonald’s sustainable beef club program in the UK and Ireland demonstrated significant greenhouse gas emission reductions by working with beef farmers on animal health and nutrition, breeding strategies and soil management practices between 2008 and 2014. During this period, farms that assessed carbon outputs each year posted greenhouse gas emission reductions of 23%. We are now working with a pilot group of farmers to understand how we can more effectively use farm data to benchmark key sustainability metrics including carbon through the Sustainable Beef Network.




Our goals and progress


As a part of our broader strategy, we have launched a new set of ambitious beef sustainability goals for 2020. These goals apply in each of our top 10 beef sourcing countries, which collectively represent more than 85% of our global beef volumes. We aim to set more specific country-based beef sustainability targets in these 10 countries.


Accelerate industry progress: By 2020, source a portion of our beef from suppliers participating in sustainability programs aligned with GRSB principles and criteria, and that meet McDonald’s requirements for each applicable market.



In 2016, we purchased a portion of our beef from a fully verified supply chain sustainability pilot program in Canada. This initiative is now being led by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. Arcos Dorados – Latin America’s largest restaurant chain and one of the Company’s largest Franchisees – sourced beef through the Novo Campo program during the Rio Olympics. Through these programs we are currently sourcing beef in two out of our 10 top beef sourcing countries from sustainability programs. We are actively collaborating with key national stakeholders to develop beef sustainability programs in our remaining eight markets.



Share knowledge and tools: By 2020, engage with beef producers through outreach projects to help develop and share best practices related to our Priority Impact Areas.



As of December 2017, more than half of our top ten beef sourcing countries are supporting or sponsoring beef producer sustainability groups or programs. 



Promote Flagship Farmers: By 2020, use our Flagship Farmers Program to select and showcase our most progressive suppliers.



As of December 2017, three of our top ten beef sourcing countries have recognized one or more beef producers as Flagship Farmers to work with peers and share their industry-leading processes and practices. The remaining seven countries will begin recognizing beef Flagship Farmers throughout 2018. In addition to adding these sustainability champions to the Flagship Farmer Program, we’re also focused on providing them with resources and tools that better enable and equip them to engage with other farmers and industry influencers. Broadening those opportunities will be a top focus in the years ahead.



Pioneer new practices: By 2020, set up McDonald’s progressive farm partnerships to trial and discover new practices related to our priority impact areas.



Four of our top 10 beef sourcing countries have one or more pioneering projects underway or have a Progressive Farm Partnership in progress to test the scalability of key research.



Conserve forests: By 2020, in regions with identified risks relating to the conservation of forests, verify that the beef sourced from those regions comes from farms where primary forests and high conservation value lands are preserved. This is part of our Global Commitment on Forests and includes regions outside of our top 10 beef sourcing countries.



The first step for the Company was to identify the list of countries that we currently source beef from that have a high deforestation risk, as defined by the WWF Living Forests report. We are working with these countries and our suppliers, alongside expert consultants including Proforest and Agrotools, to identify tailored risk mapping and implementation plans for these identified regions.

We’re also engaged in multi-stakeholder groups to address these issues, including:



1. McDonald’s program requirements include transparency, credible verification and measured performance against clearly identified impact areas.

2. These regions may differ from our top 10 beef sourcing countries. We aim to set specific country-based ambitious beef sustainability targets in these 10 countries.