The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), members of which include Walmart, McDonalds, WWF and the Rainforest Alliance, recently announced that its Draft principles and criteria for global sustainable beef (production, processing and retail) are open for public comment and review through May 16, 2014.
The document defines sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes the planet, people, animals and progress. It lays out the following principles for global stakeholders:
- Produce beef in a manner that identifies and manages natural resources responsibly and maintains or enhances the health of ecosystems.
- Protect and respect human rights, and recognize the critical roles that all participants within the beef value chain play in their community regarding culture, heritage, employment, land rights and health.
- Respect and manage animals to ensure their health and welfare.
- Ensure the safety and quality of beef products and utilize information-sharing systems that promote beef sustainability.
- Encourage innovation, optimise production, reduce waste and add to economic viability.
The document aims to address only the principles and criteria while deliberately avoiding more context-specific levels of indicators, metrics and practices to allow for multiple regional approaches.
"GRSB does not intend to set standards or create a certification program but to provide a common baseline understanding of sustainable beef that national roundtables and other initiatives can use to meet their needs," reads the report.
The comments submitted on the GRSB draft document will be taken into account, redrafted and available for another review at the end of June.
In a complementary effort, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, of which McDonald’s is also a member, announced the development of its Principles for Sustainable Beef Farming in November. At the time of the announcement, Keith Kenny, Senior Director of Supply Chain at McDonald’s Europe, said the next step is to develop a set of Sustainable Beef Farming Practices to help farmers meet the Principles in a practical way, widely promote and support their adoption, and align their work with that of the GRSB.
McDonald’s announced in January that, by 2016, it will source a portion of its beef from “verified sustainable sources.” The pledge is an effort to reduce the environmental impact of the fast-food chain’s meat production, as well as to be kinder to the animals on which its livelihood rests. Though there is, of course, plenty of debate over just what “sustainable beef” is, or whether it is achievable.