Patty Promises

McDonald's Finds a Starting Point

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
A sustainable hamburger was first set as a goal publicly by McDonald's in 2014. Did they cut the mustard? (Photo by Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0)

BANFF, Alberta (DTN) -- Two years ago, McDonald's Corporation made news at the annual meeting of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association by announcing it would begin buying sustainable beef by 2016.

Bob Langert, then head of the company's environmental and sustainability operations division and since retired, spoke with DTN at the time. Asked to explain what "sustainable beef" meant to the multi-billion-dollar corporation, he admitted the term was confusing and nebulous. He believed, however, a definition would come from the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB).

Wednesday, the GRSB describes sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes planet, people, animals and progress. Not only did the GRSB develop a definition of sustainability, but at the group's meeting a McDonald's executive reported they had indeed made good on their promise to source verified sustainable beef for their restaurants.

Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, senior manager sustainability for McDonald's restaurants of Canada, admitted initially the company "had a stretch goal without knowing how we were going to meet it." Yet this year, having worked through the process, they purchased a portion of beef from verified sustainable sources in Canada.

Today, McDonald's can trace beef "from birth to burger," reported Fitzpatrick-Stilwell. He said they verified 121 sustainable cow-calf producers, 20 feedlots, two packers and one patty plant in Canada. A total of 8,967 head of cattle from a fully-verified supply chain were used by the company.

While he noted there was more to do, Fitzpatrick-Stilwell said they chose to "champion progress over perfection" in the company's sustainable beef pilot. A detailed report can be found at

Vicki Myers can be reached at


Victoria Myers