McDonalds to Shift to “Sustainable Beef” (Once It Figures Out What That Is)

The fast food giant says it will change its purchasing practices beginning in 2016

Starting in 2016, McDonalds will start purchasing something called “verified sustainable beef,” the fast-food giant announced today.

GreenBiz has the scoop:

“Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef,” said Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president, global sustainability. “We have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task”…

Langert says McDonald’s isn’t yet ready to commit to a specific quantity it would purchase in 2016, or when it might achieve its “aspirational goal” of buying 100 percent of its beef from “verified sustainable sources.” (The company only will say, “We will focus on increasing the annual amount each year.”) Realistically, it could take a decade or more to achieve the 100-percent goal.

Sound like a lot of Mcfluff? Perhaps. While McDonalds is making a lot of its ambitious, if slow, changeover to sustainable beef, it first has to figure out what that actually means. Other fast food chains focus on sustainable-sounding descriptors — Chipotle’s beef is “responsibly raised,” while Five Guys’ is “fresh” — but none are “verified” sustainable, because such a certification doesn’t currently exist.

According to Greenbiz, McDonalds is working in tandem with a number of corporations and environmental organizations to change that. In 2012, they formed the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef, which is taking a expansive view of the concept of sustainability.

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email [email protected].

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