Canadian ranchers and farmers have always understood the importance of sustainability, but the industry did not have defined sustainability standards until McDonald’s Canada got involved and asked what it would take to prove it to customers.

“Sustainability is good business,” says Cherie Copithorne-Barnes, a Canadian rancher and key leader in the certified sustainable beef movement. “Consumers want to know that the food they’re eating was produced in a socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound manner.”

McDonald’s Canada already sources 100 percent of the beef for its hamburger patties from Canadian ranches and farms, primarily in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But it took a four-year effort to define and develop beef sustainability standards through the CRSB – a group that McDonald’s Canada supported as a founding member. In Aug. 2018, McDonald’s Canada became the first to serve Canadian beef from farms and ranches certified to the CRSB sustainability criteria through its Angus burgers*.

“This isn’t the easy road, it’s the right road,” says John E. Betts, President and Chief Executive Officer of McDonald’s Canada.

“As we move forward, side by side with our partners, we are all helping change the industry for the better one step at a time.”

Collaboration for greater sustainability

The CRSB brought together stakeholders from academia, regulators, producer associations, processors, and NGOs to create a set of sustainable beef production and processing standards that include more than 60 indicators across five principles for beef sustainability.

These indicators are verified by on-site certification audits and include protection of ecosystems, providing a safe work environment, and achieving specific beef quality standards.

The principles focus on key factors such as animal health and welfare, which requires cattle have adequate feed and access to clean drinking water.
McDonald’s plans to source more than 20 million CRSB-certified burgers for its Angus lineup by September of next year.

The packaging for those Angus burgers will carry a CRSB logo to signal to consumers that the beef is sourced from certified sustainable farms and ranches.

McDonald’s plans to continue working with Canadian ranchers, farmers and food processors such as Cargill to increase the amount of certified sustainable beef on the menu. The more producers and companies that join the effort to have their operations certified as sustainable, the more the entire value chain stands to gain from the impact.

“Ranchers and farmers now use 17 percent less water to produce a pound of beef than they did 30 years ago and create 15 percent fewer greenhouse gases,” adds Dr. Reynold Bergen, Science Director of the Beef Cattle Research Council.

Many ranchers have welcomed the sustainability efforts because it validates their production practices and demonstrates how they’re using technology to reduce their environmental footprint.

These advances benefit not only the cattle and the land they’re raised on, but also the wildlife who inhabit Canadian ranches, and the overall environment across the country.