Earlier this year McDonald’s announced its intent to purchase verified sustainable beef beginning in 2016. Bob Langert, McDonald’s Vice President, was on hand in Nashville in February during the Annual Cattle Industry Convention to talk with America’s cattle producers about the company’s sustainability-related goals and to reassure cattlemen and women that McDonald’s intends to collaborate with industry on this project, not mandate new requirements on them. Watch some of what Langert had to say and also some responses from cattlemen about sustainability in the above video.
This is a topic that is not going away, but it doesn’t have to be an “us versus them” issue either because, in my opinion, beef production is sustainable. For example, according to research by the Beef Checkoff Program, between 2005 and 2011, the beef industry has reduced emissions to soil by 7 percent, greenhouse-gas emissions by 2 percent, acidification potential emission by 3 percent, emissions to water by 10 percent, water use by 3 percent, land use by 4 percent, resource consumption and energy use by 2 percent, and occupation accidents and illnesses by 32 percent. Cumulatively, the environmental and social footprint of the beef industry has been reduced by 7 percent in six years.
There's not a single, agreed-to definition yet for what sustainable beef is, but we have an opportunity to have a seat at the table in those discussions. We're producing more beef from fewer animals using fewer resources. We just may have to take a little extra time to write down, document and measure our improvement. In the future, we're going to have to prove it with regard to sustainability in the U.S. beef industry.
Watch the video, and read more about my thoughts on the topic of sustainability here. Then leave us a comment and let us know what you think.