From FCC Express, by Richard Kamchen
McDonald’s choice of Canada for its sustainable beef pilot project is a positive step for ranchers according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“Any time you head down this path and you get recognized for the excellent things you’re doing, we view it as feeding into what we refer to as the overall Canada beef advantage,” says Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the CCA, which represents Canada’s 68,500 beef farms and feedlots.
Cattle producer groups like the CCA have responded enthusiastically to the fast-food giant’s commitment to start buying verified sustainable beef by 2016, beginning with a pilot project in Canada.
“We are currently working with the [CCA] and other industry stakeholders towards an agreement on a pilot project with the goal of advancing the ongoing improvement in the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the Canadian beef value chain,” says McDonald’s Canada’s western Canada spokesman John Gibson.
According to Laycraft, it is programs like Verified Beef Production, Canada’s verified on-farm food safety program for beef, and relaunched Beef InfoXchange System – BIXS 2.0, the online carcass information database – that helped convince McDonald’s to choose Canada for its pilot.
“Last summer, after discussions with a range of people, we helped facilitate the creation of the Canadian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, and … I think that also helped demonstrate a commitment through the entire supply chain that we intend to be a leader in this area,” adds Laycraft.
McDonald’s Canada sources 100 per cent of its beef from Canadian beef suppliers, with all its beef patties coming from Cargill Meats Canada’s Spruce Grove, Alberta facility. The province has 40 per cent of the cows, 70 per cent of the feedlot capacity and 70 per cent of the processing capacity in Canada.
Although McDonald’s hasn’t yet defined what exactly it means by “sustainable,” Laycraft points out it’s not cattle that are or aren’t sustainable, but whether or not ranchers manage their operations in a sustainable manner.
“Producers are managing this wealth of grazing lands, which is vitally important to the type of biodiversity most people associate with sustainability,” he says.
McDonald’s isn’t providing many details right now, noting the program is still in its interim stages.
“We are not able to go into the specifics of what percentage of the supply chain this will be, but that’s one area that will be explored,” says Gibson, adding McDonald’s plans to work with producers, feeders and packers regarding guidelines addressing environmental stewardship, animal health and welfare and food safety.
“We’re also discussing this at the Canadian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef,” notes Laycraft. “It’s going to be an ongoing dialogue. What we’re going to establish is that by 2016, these are the benchmarks we need to meet.”