Beef Sustainability in Canada, Brazil, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand


McDonald's Canada Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot

In 2016, McDonald’s concluded our fist beef sustainability pilot program in Canada, the industry’s first beef sustainability initiative to bring the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s (GRSB) principles and criteria to life. During the pilot we were able to recognize best practices, identify future opportunities and verify the achievement of positive outcomes related to important areas of beef sustainability, including: maintaining well-managed grazing systems; management plans that protect creeks, rivers and riparian areas; nutrient management plans and storm water containment; leading animal welfare practices; and support of local rural economies. 

In addition, the pilot established and tested an independent verification process with input and guidance from the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) and other key stakeholders, using the principles and criteria ratified by the GRSB. McDonald’s pilot project supported and advanced the Canadian beef industry’s broader sustainability journey by sharing important learnings about indicator development, verification processes, and chain of custody. 

Learnings from this pilot will continue to have a ripple effect throughout the Canadian beef industry as they will inform next steps to accelerate implementation of the CRSB’s program for sustainable verification framework across Canada.

As of June 1, 2016:

  • The pilot program verified a total of 144 operations and tracked cattle chain of custody through a verified sustainable supply chain.

  • McDonald's purchased a portion of its beef from verified sustainable sources as a result of the Canadian pilot.

  • McDonald's pilot project advances the Canadian beef industry's sustainability journey. The pilot has helped the CRSB move forward by sharing important learnings about indicator development, verification, and chain of custody.

Nancy Labbe

Senior Program Officer, WWF

“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.”



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

Arcos Dorados, McDonald's Developmental Licensee 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 NGO's 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 Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

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 analogous to slavery or child labor do not occur
  • Meet the GTPS Guide Principles, Criteria and Indicators
  • Achieve third party verification audits

This pilot does not represent an end to our 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 foundational 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, McDonald's Brazil will continue to scale sustainable beef production throughout the country, not just in the Amazon, focusing on continuous improvement.


Francisco Beduschi

President, GTPS

“GTPS exists to promote the sustainable development of livestock in Brazil, and do this trough three ways: Value chain articulation; Information dissemination; and Continuous improvement. The Novo Campo is one of the projects supported by GTPS and was the first one to use GTPS’s Indicators Guidebook for Sustainable Livestock, to measure and report their results. These results reveals improvements in environmental, social and economic terms, and do this in partnership with ranchers and global leaders like Arcos Dorados / McDonald’s and JBS, match the way GTPS works. At the end, projects like Novo Campo highlights that sustainable livestock is feasible and viable in Brazil.”

Ciniro Costa Junior and Marina Piatto

Institute for Agriculture and Forestry Management and Certification (IMAFLORA) – Brazil

“By guiding the adoption of best management practices on beef cattle farms in the Brazilian Amazon, focused on the recovery of degraded pastures and improvements in animal management, IMAFLORA estimates the Novo Campo Program has reduced on-farm GHG emissions in 25% in two years – even promoting an increase in meat production by 100%. Although, under continuous improvement, farms are remarkably targeting 50% GHG emission reduction and 4-fold meat production increase in the next years. 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.”



In 2015, McDonald's USA was a founding member of the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), a multi-stakeholder, transparent effort focused on shaping the sustainability framework for the U.S. beef supply chain. The USRSB encourages and promotes continuous improvement toward sustainable beef, including by:

  • Establishing sustainability indicators, based on the GRSB principles and criteria;
  • Establishing verification methodologies;
  • Creating a program philosophy for implementing sustainability objectives;
  • Generating field projects that prove sustainability concepts; and
  • Establishing goals for success.

In 2017, the USRSB, plans to finalize metrics for six indicators. Two projects will bring these metrics to the field and begin addressing the environmental, social and economic impacts of beef production in the U.S.

McDonald’s U.S. is working with The Noble Foundation, the Beef Marketing Group Tyson Foods, and Golden State Foods to test the application of these metrics through the entire beef supply chain.

Another project will be led by a team of researchers from Arizona State University, Colorado State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, and Texas A&M Agrilife Research, along with other experts, to explore the connection between managed grazing practices, the potential for these grazing practices to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, and rancher productivity. McDonald’s USA and our franchisees have committed $4.5 Million over three years to support this landmark research.


John Butler

Beef producer and chair of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

“As a beef producer, I’m proud our industry is coming together to collaborate on something that is important to both the consumer as well as farmers and ranchers. As the chair of USRSB, I’m excited to see our retail members, like McDonald’s, working with other partners in the value chain to ensure continuous improvement in U.S. beef industry sustainability.”

Billy Cook

Ph.D., senior vice president and director of the Agricultural Division at the Noble Foundation

“This research will examine every step of beef production from the ranch to the consumer’s plate. For generations, agricultural producers have found ways to increase production while using less resources and improving land stewardship. This project translates this desire to continually improve into real-world research that holds the potential to someday benefit producers and customers around the globe.”

Peter Byck

Professor of Practice at Arizona State University

“Our science team will be studying whether and how innovative ranchers are creating ways to produce healthy beef while regenerating their soils, their livelihoods and their communities.”


Australia and New Zealand

McDonald’s Australia is supporting the Red Meat Advisory Council’s Sustainability steering group (SSG) in the development of the Australian Beef Sustainability framework. They will release the first Sustainability baseline report evaluating performance against an agreed set of indicators set out by this framework in the 1st half of 2017. Click here to see additional industry information on sustainable beef.  

McDonald’s is also funding two 3-year projects to identify and scale sustainable beef-production practices in Australia and scoping has commenced to identify and support future projects.

McDonald’s New Zealand has partnered with Beef + Lamb New Zealand, ANZCO and Silver Fern Farms to initiate a Sustainable Beef integration project which is focused on encouraging sustainable production practices. The program includes elements of business planning, animal health and welfare, workplace health and safety, farm profitability, and environmental impacts on land, soil and water resources.