Moo-ving Sustainability Forward?

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Starting in 2016, the definition of sustainable beef might start with a “Mc.” In January the fast food giant announced that it would start buying “verified sustainable” beef, and ever since, the question has remained as to how it will actually define “sustainable” (and who is really playing a role in it’s definition). McDonald’s is committed to using non-therapeutic antibiotics in its cattle, despite many outcries to do otherwise. This week we hear another outcry, this time from Congress. NY Senator, Louise M. Slaughter wrote a letter to McDonald’s Director of Sustainability asking the company to reconsider its stance. She writes:

Given that over 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US are used in agriculture, a situation that hastens the development of antibiotic resistance, we need to be especially concerned with how our meat is produced. Beef production is not sustainable if antibiotics are overused.”

Read Chris Morran’s piece in the Consumerist this week to read Senator Slaughter's  full letter and learn a little more.

Working with McDonald’s on the criteria is the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB), a group of industry and NGO bodies charged with promoting sustainability within the beef value chain. Their efforts are noble and their membership is designed to create “win-wins” between industry, human health and the environment, but how is it all working out? According to Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), it’s falling short of its goals. Jonathan Gelbard of NRDC outlines their stance and offer’s advice to the GRSB on how it can better set standards that will support:

Ranches, farms, feedlots and feed crop operations that maintain the health of ecosystems and their biodiversity, prevent and minimize pollution, and protect public health, animal welfare and the well-being of farm workers.”

This process of defining sustainable beef will be a long and arduous one with many stakeholders holding opposing views and desired outcomes. However, it is an extremely important development as it will set a precedent for sustainability in a global commodity.

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