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Cargill and McDonald’s verify sustainable beef in Canada

A McDonald’s pilot project in Canada has successfully tracked nearly 9,000 head of cattle from birth to beef through a fully verified supply chain, resulting in the equivalent of 2.4 million beef patties for McDonald’s Canada. 

July 15, 2015

McDonald’s has successfully concluded its Sustainable Beef Pilot, an industry-first, marking a major milestone of advancing sustainable beef practices and outcomes in Canada. The pilot took place over the last 30 months through a collaborative partnership with Cargill and several Canadian beef industry stakeholder groups.

In partnership with the Cargill teams at our beef plants in High River and Spruce Grove, Alberta, the pilot project has successfully tracked nearly 9,000 head of cattle from birth to burger for McDonald’s restaurants, supplying the equivalent of 2.4 million beef patties to the McDonald’s Canada System. It involved 181 operations: 154 cow-calf and backgrounding operations, 24 feedlots, two beef processors, and one patty plant. The pilot is the first program of its kind to make the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) principles and criteria actionable across the entire beef value chain.

McDonald’s Canadian market was a logical choice for the pilot because of its streamlined sourcing. Specifically, McDonald’s Canada purchases 100 percent of their beef locally from Canada. Canadian beef producers have already adopted many sustainable practices as part of their day-to-day operations, creating a market that was ready to embrace the project.

Cargill supplies beef patties to McDonald’s Canada from our facility in Spruce Grove, Alberta. And our beef processing plant in High River, Alberta, is one of two primary suppliers of Canadian beef cuts for McDonald’s Canada. As a partner in the Sustainable Beef Pilot, we used our industry knowledge and network across the Canadian beef value chain to help McDonald’s meet its sustainable beef sourcing commitment.

“It’s critically important that Cargill continues to lead in areas like sustainability,” said Pete Richter, president of Cargill Foodservice. “It is essential for Cargill to help customers connect more effectively with consumers and to be part of the solution where food needs to evolve.”
During the Canadian pilot, local indicators were developed in line with the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef principles and criteria in consultation with a cross-industry advisory board. The GRBS Principles include:

  1. Natural resources, such as ensuring soil health, water quality, and wildlife and plant biodiversity.
  2. Community and people, include ensuring a safe and healthy work environment and commitment to supporting the local community.
  3. Animal health and welfare, such as access to clean drinking water and mitigating/ minimizing animal stress and pain.
  4. Food, such as ensuring food safety and beef quality, including training and registration in the Verified Beef Production (VBP) program.
  5. Efficiency and innovation, such as recycling and energy efficiency programs.

The pilot used an independent third-party firm to verify operations against the indicators at each segment of the supply chain (including ranches, feedlots and processors) and then developed mechanisms for chain of custody management that tracked cattle through verified sustainable operations.

“As a progressive burger company, we are changing the way we source and serve food in our restaurants,” said Steve Easterbrook, president and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation. “We have an important role in helping build a more sustainable food system globally through initiatives such as the Sustainable Beef Pilot in Canada and we’re committed to continuing this important work around the world.”

While the pilot has been completed, McDonald’s Canada and Cargill will both continue to actively contribute to the work being done by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef to launch an industry-wide beef sustainability framework within Canada. Cargill will also look to expand our efforts to create opportunities for other customers interested in beef sustainability.

Additionally, the pilot findings will be used to inform similar programs being implemented in collaboration with regional and market-level roundtables around the world.

“Given what we know about current and anticipated future consumer food trends, we see beef sustainability as a means to ensure that consumers can continue to feel good about choosing to eat beef,” said Emily Murray, general manager for Cargill’s McDonald’s Canada beef patty business.

For more information about the pilot, you can read the final report at