Where’s the Beef? McDonalds Moving Toward Sustainability?
OK, yes, this is a vegan blog about vegan related subjects, but McDonalds and sustainable beef is an interesting topic.
Our friends at Green Biz have written the first of a three part series about how McDonalds intends to move towards buying only beef grown from sustainable farms. McDonalds has indicated that, starting in 2016, they will begin purchasing verified sustainable beef.
“Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef,” said Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president, global sustainability. “We have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task,” he told me during a November visit to the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.
Clearly McDonalds is hearing people’s concerns about sustainability. But what is sustainable beef.
Rachel Tepper writes for The Huffington Post, “Earlier this month (edit: back in 2011), McDonald’s Corp.’s sustainability vice president Bob Langert addressed the issue of sustainable beef and the difficulty defining it. His concerns come more than a year after the company pledged to move toward sustainability. Langert’s comments bring up pointed questions. McDonald’s defines ‘double green’ as plans and actions that ultimately benefit society and business growth, but how easy is it to make a business sustainable — particularly fast-food businesses that rely heavily on beef — and what does beef sustainability even mean?
“Interest in sustainability has skyrocketed among major players in the food service industry in recent years, mirroring conversations in the broader green and food communities about the agriculture industry’s role in serious environmental challenges.
“Bryan Weech, director of livestock agriculture for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), told The Huffington Post that ‘there is no one, universally accepted definition’ for beef sustainability. Weech also represents the WWF on the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, one of several groups working toward a definition.
The definition of this term appears to be open for interpretation. The cynic in me is remind of free range chickens.
The vast majority of eggs produced and consumed in the United States come from conventional, large-scale battery cage operations. Hens spend their entire lives with up to eight other birds in wire cages as small as 67 square inches, a space about the size of a single sheet of letter-sized paper.
Here’s an interview that Green Biz had with McDonalds:
A really good question is whether or not the meat eating public will even care…
How all this plays out in the McDonald’s global restaurant empire remains to be seen. And the road from here to sustainable Big Macs is rife with unknowns. Among them: Will the company and the GRSB be able to enlist a critical mass of the global beef industry to engender a tipping point in production techniques? Will Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s and other beef-centric fast-food chains join in? (And what about higher-end restaurants?) Will regional variations of the standard meet the tough scrutiny of activists and local stakeholders? Will all of this happen within acceptable costs so as not to drive up the cost of beef or burgers unacceptably? How will sustainable beef be perceived in the face of other pressing sustainability and reputational issues facing the fast-food industry, such as obesity and fair wages for employees?
And, not insignificantly: Will the meat-eating public even care?
To that last question, Langert thinks they will. “From the research we do, consumers really care about where their food comes from,” he told me. McDonald’s has done private consumer research with the firm GlobeScan. “What comes through very strong is high expectations for companies like McDonald’s across the board in CSR and sustainability.
There certainly are those people who are trying to “do the right thing” (in their opinion) and only eat meat grown on sustainable farms. However, I suspect that there is not a very large crossover between the people interested in only eating meat grown on sustainable farms and those people that eat at McDonalds. If McDonalds only offered meat grown on sustainable farms would that convince the “do the right thing” crowd to eat at McDonalds? I suspect not. However, if McDonalds completely transitions over to sustainable farms, I would suspect that most farms would change over as well.
If you are interested in reading the rest of the story, there’s a link to the article below.