A Little Bit Sustainable? No! Fostering Progress.
McDonalds launched their advertising campaign recently highlighting the introduction of beef certified under the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef's program. They don't provide much detail (a topic for another post I suppose) but they do suggest that 30% of their Quarter Pounders are now produced by certified producers. I've had several people highlight to me that this seems to be a bit of "green washing." I think its perfectly acceptable to make and announce a commitment and to track progress to fulfilling that commitment.
Changing and certifying behaviour takes time. Convincing farmers to implement (or at the very least document) new practices can be difficult if there is no incentive. The implement becomes a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. McDonalds can say they want to sell "sustainable" beef and wait until there is sufficient quantity to meet their needs. Those requirements are significant and it will take many producers to change to meet them. Individual producers making a decision to certify have a need to see a market for their certified (and differentiated) beef. Without a market there is reduced incentive to participate. Without increase participation McDonalds will not be able to announce their commitment.
I applaud the initiative by McDonalds. It shows real leadership just as A&W's commitment on grass fed beef does. The definition of sustainable beef will continue to evolve and different consumers will want to see different attributes but this is a real step forward in the conversation.
This approach allows McDonalds to say this is important to them and that they are committed to making progress. It also allows individual farmers to certify and to have an immediate market for their beef. In my view, McDonalds is fostering the development of the market for this product and facilitating the transition. This creates a critical mass of demand for the certified beef and a foundation from which to grow that market. Once the critical mass is achieved we will see the certified beef show up in retail stores and other restaurants. I applaud the initiative by McDonalds. It shows real leadership just as A&W's commitment on grass fed beef does. The definition of sustainable beef will continue to evolve and different consumers will want to see different attributes but this is a real step forward in the conversation.
Recommended citation format: von Massow, Michael. "A Little Bit Sustainable?". Food Focus Guelph (106), Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, Dec 12, 2020.