Beef Sustainability Stories

We are trying, testing and scaling what works across our global markets. Below are just some of the stories where we’re continually improving our approach – all part of the Scale for Good journey.

An industry first for Canada

 

In 2016, our first beef sustainability pilot scheme was successfully implemented in Canada. Working with industry partners, we were able to purchase a portion of our beef from sustainable sources through a program based on the principles and criteria of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Across 144 operations including farms and ranches, feedlots, packers and a patty plant, the following activities were verified:

  • Maintaining well-managed grazing systems.
  • Establishing management plans to protect rivers, creeks and riparian systems.
  • Nutrient management plans and storm water containment.
  • Implementing leading animal welfare practices.
  • Supporting local rural economies.

Through the pilot, we were able to test an independent verification process, using GRSB principles, with guidance from the Canadian counterpart of the GRSB, the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. By sharing experiences with other stakeholders, the pilot is positively influencing the wider beef industry in Canada.    

By June 2016, the pilot program had:

  • Verified 144 operations and tracked beef cattle through a sustainable supply chain.
  • Enabled us to purchase a portion of our beef from verified sustainable sources, meeting a commitment to achieve this by 2016.
  • Helped advance sustainability across the Canadian beef industry.
  • Provided valuable learning for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

 

“Well-managed cattle grazing is key to maintaining North America’s grasslands. The partnership with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef shows that businesses, local ranching communities, and conservationists can listen to and learn from each other while pushing toward mutual goals.”

Nancy Labbe, Senior Program Officer, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

“The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is really thankful for the McDonald’s Project, because it’s created the framework that we needed to be able to advance our industry as a whole down the path of verified sustainable beef.”

Cherie Copthorne-Barnes, Chair, Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

Beef sustainability in Brazil

 

The most relevant challenges of cattle raising in Brazil is to avoid deforestation and increase efficiency and productivity – essentially producing more with the same amount of land while still respecting environmental ethical and human aspects. 

Arcos Dorados, McDonald’s Franchisee in Latin America, has engaged with a Sustainable Beef Project in Alta Floresta State called the Novo Campo Project, supported by the GTPS (local Roundtable for Sustainable Livestock), local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry partners. This program is designed to address many of the unique challenges to a sustainable beef supply in this region, while meeting the global principles and criteria established by the GRSB.

Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Meet our commitment to zero deforestation.
  • Verify that production does not occur within Conservancy Units and Indian areas.
  • Ensure that conditions resembling slavery or child labor do not occur.
  • Meet the GTPS Guide principles, criteria and indicators.
  • Achieve third-party verification audits.

This project does not represent an end to the Company and Arcos Dorados’s long-standing commitment to not source beef from within the Amazon Biome, which was established in 1989. Our commitment to protecting the rainforests remains steadfast. At the same time, given innovations in sustainable sourcing and related partnerships with credible NGOs and our suppliers, we are leveraging this pilot to evaluate whether it is possible – and even productive – to source beef from the Amazon. The results of the pilot will help inform our policy and related strategies moving forward, but our commitment to preventing deforestation and supporting sustainability initiatives that reclaim degraded lands will remain fundamental to our approach.

Farms under this project are currently being verified, and we met our goal of starting to source beef raw material from this program during the Rio Olympics in 2016. As part of our broader beef sustainability journey, the Company and Arcos Dorados will continue to scale sustainable beef production throughout the country, not just in the Amazon, focusing on continuous improvement.

 

“The Novo Campo Program results point out large-scale assistance and implementation of best management practices are key actions to enhance beef production performance in Brazil.”

Ciniro Costa Junior and Marina Piatto, Institute for Agriculture and Forestry Management and Certification (IMAFLORA) – Brazil

Beef sustainability in Europe

 

We buy around 2.5% of all beef produced in the European Union, sourced from approximately 470,000 farms, and have the opportunity and responsibility to help promote and enable sustainable production. In collaboration with members of the European Beef Industry through the SAI Platform Beef Working Group, our suppliers and local farm assurance schemes, we’re piloting a process across six European countries that aims to support the creation of scalable programs to address key sustainability priorities for the European beef sector.

 

Beef sustainability in Ireland

 

One of the countries involved in the SAI Platform beef sustainability pilots is Ireland – a major beef-producing nation with 80% of its agricultural land devoted to grasslands. 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. Origin Green brings together government, farmers and food producers, and a key element is the Beef and Lamb Quality Assurance scheme.

Some 49,000 farms – representing 90% of Irish beef output – are certified through the scheme and audited every 18 months. Farmers provide data on key sustainability measures such as greenhouse gas emissions, and the information is used to help improve the efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of their farms. To date, some 117,000 carbon assessments have been carried out on Irish beef farms.

 

“Sustainability to me on this farm means that I am getting the maximum amount of production off of every acre that I have here, and that our farming methods are as near to nature as they can possibly be.”

John Power, Bord Bia certified beef producer and McDonald’s Flagship Farmer

Beef sustainability in the U.S.

 

In the U.S., the Company is 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.

McDonald’s U.S. was a founding member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and has served on the Roundtable’s Board of Directors since its inception. The USRSB has been working on developing metrics for beef sustainability for each sector in the U.S. beef value chain. A summary of the first draft of the USRSB metrics was published in November 2017, and an official public comment period to collect feedback on the metrics will launch in the spring of 2018 with the publication of Sustainability Assessment Guides supporting each metric.

Working with the Noble Research Institute, the Integrity Beef Alliance, the Beef Marketing Group, Tyson Foods and Golden State Foods – all USRSB members – the Integrity Beef Sustainability Pilot will test the draft USRSB metrics for beef sustainability throughout the full beef value chain and provide farmer-tested input and feedback to the USRSB on the metrics. In doing so, the project will incorporate sustainability metrics into established producer engagement programs (Integrity Beef and Progressive Beef) to develop replicable and scalable models for advancing beef sustainability across the country.

In support of the Company’s commitment to trial and discover new practices related to our priority impact areas, we have identified innovative grazing practices and soil health as potential levers to amplify our positive impacts. To this end, McDonald’s U.S. and our Franchisees have committed a $4.5 million matching grant to support scientific research to evaluate and quantify the extent to which Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) grazing can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soil while also improving farm productivity and natural landscapes. Arizona State University is leading the research team, which includes scientists from Colorado State, Michigan State, New Mexico State and Texas A&M Agrilife Research.

The short film Soil Carbon Cowboys illustrates the basic premises of AMP grazing and features the stories of a few ranchers who are already using these practices.

In 2018, we will begin recognizing and promoting leading ranchers in sustainability by selecting our first Flagship Farmers in the U.S. McDonald’s U.S. and our Franchisees have also committed to a three-year sponsorship of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Environmental Stewardship Awards Program.