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McDonald’s Plans to Supersize Sustainability Efforts

February 5, 2014
By: Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today
McDonalds Burger
McDonald's will be seeking sustainable beef in 2016.  

It was announced last month that McDonald’s is going to invest in sustainable beef. While a clear definition has not been entirely outlined attendees of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattlemen’s College got a little better idea of what to expect.

Bob Langert, VP CSR and Sustainability for McDonald's Corporation, shared the goals of McDonald’s initiative to sell sustainable beef across the globe.

"We feel that with sustainability we can grow our business," says Langert.

This would not be the first time for McDonald’s to jump into a sustainable protein as the company has been selling sustainably caught fish since 1999.

"The fact is beef is one of our major platforms to growth (in sustainability)," adds Langert.

McDonald's is in 119 countries and has 34,000 restaurants. The fast food company feeds 69 million people per day, third only to Walmart and the Chinese government. Also, McDonalds has five different burgers that are billion dollar brands.

"We're convinced that by doing this we can continue to build our brand and bring in more customers," says Langert.

The goal for the company is to start buying sustainable beef in 2016, however there is not a clear cut definition of what sustainability is.

"We need to define what sustainable beef is...are we going to let activists or elitists define what that is?" implores Langert. "Our pledge is we are going to collaborate and not mandate."

To Langert sustainability is the intersection of the company doing what is right for society and the business. He relates the definition of sustainability will need to also be scientifically based and holistic.

Currently, McDonald’s exports some lean beef from Australia and New Zealand into the U.S. With the new focus on sustainability the company hopes to become more committed to utilizing U.S. beef on the menu.

Collaboration with consumers and beef producers will be segments of the sustainability program.

"Our business model is to listen to consumers and meet their needs. If we don't follow that then it is our biggest threat," relates Langert. "We are committed to making you (beef producers) economically viable."

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