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TheBeefSite Newsletter - 8 January 2014

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Wednesday 8th January 2014.
Michael Priestley - Editor

Michael Priestley

McDonald’s on Track to Purchasing Verified Sustainable Beef

A global fast food chain has committed to source verified sustainable beef from 2016.

McDonald’s has described the announcement as the first step in a process geared towards all burgers coming from sustainable sources.

No figures have been attached to specific volumes of beef or places of origin, but McDonald’s vice president for global sustainability Bob Langert has said the company is now ready to work globally towards the target.

Mr Langert was quoted in GreenBiz as saying: “Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef… we have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task.”

The pledge follows efforts from MacDonald’s Europe that have driven sustainability at farm level.

The McDonald’s Agricultural Assurance Programme (MAAP), started in 2001, allows McDonald’s to benchmark production standards across Europe, while Flagship farming, which arose from MAAP, showcases sustainable livestock and crop production.

Both schemes are run in conjunction with the Food Animal Initiative (FAI), a consultancy organisation responsible for identifying and promoting the best sustainable beef production within the McDonald’s supply chain.

These efforts are part of a sea change in global cattle production, spearheaded by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRTSB), a multi-stake holder initiative involving the whole supply chain, including McDonald's.

The trend is to promote responsible agriculture from the top down, with large companies assisting producers in sustainable production.

In a global company, this is important, according to Michele Banik-Rake, director of sustainability at McDonald’s.

Describing how the McDonald’s supply chain works, Mrs Banik-Rake said: "The beef industry is large and complex. Different farmers, locations, and parts of the beef supply chain do things according to a variety of local, national, and industry expectations.”

She added that the McDonald’s sustainability programme is providing common ground in a fragmented industry.

Knowledge transfer and producer engagement will remain to be pivotal in verifying sustainable beef at McDonalds, according to FAI Agricultural Consultant Karl Williams.

“Flagship Farms is vital because it shares best practice,” explained Mr Williams. “It is not McDonald’s saying this—it’s the farmers themselves saying this is what we’re doing and this is how we’re doing it.”

John Power, an Irish Cattle farmer from County Waterford, produces grass-based beef for McDonald’s.

Focusing on producing the best grass and genetics, Mr Power has had great results.

“This has allowed us to produce more beef from grass and forage, which is in our view, a very sustainable way of producing quality beef,” said Mr Power.

He added: “When we were selected to become a McDonald’s Flagship Farm I was delighted, and to me this has shown the positive commitment that McDonald’s has in our approach to beef production.”

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