Coalition launches pilot project to improve beef

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ARDMORE, Okla. — Environmental, social and economic sustainability is a long-held objective of the United States beef industry and the focus of a new, national research project. McDonald’s USA, Tyson Foods, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Beef Marketing Group (BMG) and Golden State Foods recently announced the two-year pilot research project that will seek methods to improve sustainability across the entire beef value chain, test metrics established by the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) and explore scalable solutions that could be applicable to beef production across the country.

Project management

The Noble Foundation, the largest, independent agricultural research organization in the U.S., will coordinate and provide project management services for the overall project.

“Our efforts will examine every step of beef production from the ranch to the consumer’s plate,” said Billy Cook, Ph.D., director of the Noble Foundation Agricultural Division. “For generations, agricultural producers have found ways to increase production through more efficient practices and responsible land stewardship. This project translates this approach of continuous improvement into a real-world, systems-wide application that holds the potential to someday benefit producers and customers around the globe.”

McDonald’s is synonymous with burgers, which is why the company believes it has a responsibility to help develop its industry to produce beef in a more sustainable way, said Rickette Collins, McDonald’s senior director of global supply chain.

“We see this program as another step forward on the journey toward a more sustainable beef supply and, through collaboration, will help develop a more sustainable and efficient beef supply chain that benefits the environment, producers and, ultimately, our customers.

Different steps

Each of the five organizations involved in the project represents a different step in the beef production chain. Ranchers who are a part of the Noble Foundation’s Integrity Beef Alliance will raise the cattle for the project.

The Integrity Beef program emphasizes progressive management methods, ranch stewardship and humane care of all livestock.

BMG will feed the cattle in one of their feedyards in Kansas. BMG, which has been at the forefront of the sustainability effort, is a cooperative that works with local farmers, cow-calf producers, stocker operators and auction markets to maximize efficiency not only in their feedyard but across the entire value chain.

“Each of our collaborating organizations actively seeks new methods and innovations that ultimately lead to increased sustainability,” said John Butler, BMG chief executive officer. “Imagine what will happen when you bring all five organizations together to examine the entire process. The possibilities of additional knowledge, improved efficiencies and new ideas are almost limitless. “

BMG will send the cattle to Tyson Foods for harvesting. Some of the meat will then go to Golden State Foods, which supplies McDonald’s with some of the 100 percent beef patties served at its restaurants.

Participating partners

The project’s participating companies, cooperative and research institution are members of the USRSB, a national coalition of public and private organizations focused on leading the effort to improve the sustainability of beef production, processing and distribution.

“Consumers asked the agriculture and food production sectors to be more sustainable, and we have responded,” said Bill Buckner, president and CEO of the Noble Foundation. “This research project is a reflection of our dedication to the agriculture industry and its current consumers as well as those who we hope to serve in the future.”

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