McDonald’s Will Serve Up Sustainable Beef, Whatever That Is

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A McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., on Oct. 24, 2013

By 2016, McDonald’s will source only “verified sustainable beef.” The pledge, announced Tuesday, is an effort to make the fast-food chain’s meat production both greener and kinder to the animals whose meat winds up in its burgers. Just one problem: no one knows exactly what sustainable beef is.

In a statement posted to it website Tuesday, the fast-food king said it wants “to improve environmental practices in the way beef is produced, support positive workplaces in the beef industry, and drive continuous improvement in animal health and welfare.”

But even after collaboration with Cargill, the World Wildlife Fund and others in the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef since 2011, McDonald’s has not yet drafted a set of rules for beef production, CNBC reports.

Sustainable beef has been used to describe everything from more effective land use to eschewing growth-promoting antibiotics, using more nutritional feed or only producing grass-fed beef.

It can also involve reducing greenhouse-gas emissions through more efficient meat processing. McDonald’s found last year that 28% of its greenhouse-gas emission impact is related to the beef in its supply chain.