Sustainability is one of those ambiguous buzzwords cattlemen have been wary to embrace—and with good reason, since sustainability has often been viewed as code for more regulations.
Today, the concept of sustainable beef is being defined with a healthy dose of common sense.
Three years ago, a diverse group of worldwide beef industry stakeholders founded the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Members include packers, processors, producer groups and academicians. The group spent a year and a half defining sustainable beef, with an acknowledgment that a one-size-fits-all definition was impossible. The group settled on an umbrella definition of sustainable beef as “a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes planet, people, animals and progress.”
GRSB supports refining that definition to meet more local production systems. The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) has 43 founding members that will identify sustainability indicators, establish verification procedures and generate data to confirm sustainability concepts. USRSB’s formation was driven by state and national producer groups intent on developing meaningful indicators of industry sustainability.
Meaningful indicators of sustainability are also important to companies such as McDonald’s, which sees its sustainability initiative as an effort to satisfy consumers and grow their business and your business. Bob Langert, former McDonald’s vice president of sustainability, emphasizes the company’s efforts are driven by consumers, not activists. He says beef sustainability must include “the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.”
There’s an abundance of evidence that U.S. beef production already fits into McDonald’s concept of sustainable.
The checkoff-funded Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) revealed U.S. cattlemen are making progress. LCA found a 7% improvement in environmental and social sustainability from 2005 to 2011, including a 10% improvement in water quality, 3% reduction in water use, 2% reduction in resource consumption, 2% reduction in greenhouse gases, 7% fewer landfill contributions and a 32% decline in occupational accidents.
That underscores the reality that U.S. beef producers are committed to sustainability efforts, and it provides a great opportunity for McDonald’s and other beef retailers to tell your story.
By the end of this century, the global population will exceed 10 billion, making it essential producers demonstrate improvement in sustainable initiatives.
McDonald’s and other retailers say consumers want “to eat food they feel good about.” And they feel good about beef when they know more about how much you care about your land and animals. People, planet, profit—that’s sustainability. Let’s embrace it and tell the world beef’s fantastic story.