Shot-callers Say 'Sustainable Beef, Or Else'

Consumer perception, valid or not, may drive 'sustainable' standards and verification process for beef, pork, poultry, even milk.

Published on: Jan 24, 2014

You'd have to be truly naïve to think we aren't steadily moving toward being told how we'll be permitted to produce livestock – beef, pork and poultry – even milk. This might not be so troubling if those directives were coming from those with real-world experience.

But when those trying to call the shots have no firsthand knowledge of livestock production, it's very troubling. And when those shot-callers have their own not-so-hidden agendas, it becomes much more so.

This is the age of the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and consumer perception. Facts be damned! Those with the most financial backing and most TV sound bites rule the day.

Consumer perception, valid or not, may drive sustainable standards and verification process for beef, pork, poultry, even milk.
Consumer perception, valid or not, may drive 'sustainable' standards and verification process for beef, pork, poultry, even milk.

In response to that clamor, McDonald's put the beef industry on notice in early January that McD intends to put real teeth into dictating how beef they buy will be raised. Here's "McDonald's Three-Part Plan for Sustainable Beef":

Our aspiration: A world in which all beef in our supply chain comes from verified sustainable sources.
• Support development of global principles and criteria in 2014.
• Develop targets for purchasing verified sustainable beef.
• Begin purchasing verified sustainable beef during 2016.

Our vision: McDonald's beef comes from farmers and processors who create economic value and nutritious protein through verifiable, diverse production systems that:
• Optimize cattle's impact within ecosystems and nutrient cycles;
• Positively impact lives of their employees and communities they operate in;
• Care for the welfare of the cattle throughout their lives.

Our approach: Create principles and criteria for sustainable beef production:
• Identify and test sustainable beef production practices.
• Lead with transparency and engagement.
• Work closely with our suppliers and other partners for industry change.

Following Walmart's lead
Last fall, Walmart announced an expanded program and a standard of excellence that'll involve at least half of the cattle industry by the end of 2016. The guidelines reportedly will include how you care for land, reduce manure emissions and improve water quality.