McDonald’s has committed to using sustainable beef by 2016

McDonald’s has clarified that its commitment to start buying “verified sustainable beef” as of 2016 is a global target that will include its UK operations.

When the plan was announced earlier this week, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s in the UK initially suggested it did not include the chain’s UK business, as that already sourced sustainable beef. “UK and European beef practice is ahead of where the US is, and the beef used in the UK (all British and Irish) is sustainably sourced,” she said.

But McDonald’s has now clarified its plan to move to ‘verified sustainable beef’ in 2016 does include the UK and Europe.

It did, however, stress UK and European beef practice was indeed ahead of the US, and McDonald’s Europe had “already been driving higher standards” in its supply chains through the McDonald’s Agricultural Assistance Programme over the past decade.

McDonald’s did not provide details of exactly how it defined “verified sustainable” when it made the commitment, but said it planned to support the development of global sustainability principles.

“We’re now committing to a goal of purchasing verified sustainable beef. This sounds simple, but it’s actually a big challenge because there hasn’t been a universal definition of sustainable beef,” McDonald’s said in a statement on its global website.

To develop a sustainable beef standard for its global supply chain, McDonald’s had developed The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef in 2011 in conjunction with other groups including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Cargill and JBS, it said in its website statement. It was now in the process of drafting guiding principles and best practices, which it claims is a “breakthrough for the beef industry, and for McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s supply chain was hailed by Professor Elliott in his review into the UK food system, published in December. He praised McDonald’s supply chain for beef patties as “a fine example of a short supply chain that values long-term commercial relationships”.

This article was updated on 13.39 on 9 January 2014 after receiving more information from McDonald’s.