Beef Sustainability Stories

An industry first for Canada

In July 2018, McDonald’s Canada became the first company in Canada to serve Canadian beef from certified sustainable farms and ranches, beginning with its Angus line-up.

This means that for the first time, McDonald’s Canada’s 3 million daily guests are able to enjoy Angus beef sourced from farms and ranches certified sustainable according to world-class standards set by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB)1.  McDonald's Canada is the first company to use the CRSB's Certification Mark in advertising and on packaging, beginning with its Angus beef line of burgers in restaurants across Canada. This is all possible because McDonald’s Canada positioned itself to meet the requirements of the CRSB’s Certified Sustainable Framework. As a founding member of the CRSB, established in 2014, McDonald’s Canada was a driving force and strong supporter in developing Canadian standards for beef sustainability.  The CRSB consists of a diverse group of stakeholders representing academia, government, food and agricultural businesses, producer associations, processors like McDonald’s supplier, Cargill, retail and foodservice as well as NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund U.S., Nature Conservancy of Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Prior to this, 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

Conserving forests 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. 

McDonald’s is a member of the Cerrado Manifesto Statement of Support group, which represents an international coalition of over 100 companies and investors working together to eliminate deforestation in cattle and soy supply chains in Brazil’s Cerrado Biome. This group is especially important because it leverages the collective action of many major companies who source from this area and therefore have significant capability to work together and send a market signal to end deforestation and vegetation loss in the region.

In Brazil’s Cerrado Biome, McDonald’s is using geographic information system (GIS) technology to map the farms in our supply chain, in partnership with our Latin American Franchisee Arcos Dorados and specialists Agrotools and Proforest. Together the group has developed a deforestation-free purchasing protocol based on the definitions developed by the Collaboration on Forests and Agriculture.

Arcos Dorados, McDonald’s Franchisee in Latin America, has also 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.

“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

Elevating farm management in Europe

In partnership with the National Breeding Institute in France, we and our supplier MoyPark Beef are supporting the development of the Cap’2ER tool which evaluates the environmental footprint of a farm, compares the farm’s footprint to regional and national peers, and then identifies practical steps the farm can take to improve its carbon footprint. 

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

Rebuilding soils in the U.S.

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 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. The first draft of the USRSB Metrics and Sustainability Assessment Guides was published in May 2018 for public comment.

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 2018, we began 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.


1 At least 30% of McDonald’s Canada’s Angus beef is from certified sustainable sources, according to the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef standards.

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