Food giants cook up sustainable beef masterplan

Creating a global beef industry that is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable is the driver behind a new organisation formed by some of the world's largest companies and best-known NGOs.

McDonald's, WalMart, Cargill and WWF are among the founding members of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which registered as an independent, non-profit organisation last week.

"[This] announcement reaffirms our collective support of activities that deliver measureable, science-based outcomes that are focused on high priority environmental and industry-related issues," said Ruaraidh Petre, president of the roundtable, in a statement.

"More efficient, environmentally sustainable approaches to bringing beef from farm to fork will help conserve our planet's finite resources while also supporting our communities and our members' bottom lines."

The Roundtable will now use its status as an international entity to support local, regional and national initiatives, and share best practices for beef production systems and supply chain policies.

In the UK alone, around 2.2 million cattle are slaughtered for beef each year and the sector has one of the largest environmental footprints of any food products as a result of methane emissions from cattle and the clearing of forested areas in some countries to make way for grazing.

The group is also looking to industry, non-profit organisations, associations, academia and think tanks to expand its global membership and contribute to work to develop more sustainable cattle farming techniques.
It has already formed a strategic alliance with Brazilian organisation The Working Group on Sustainable Beef and will also take part in a series of meetings in Australia with its affiliates at the Australian Beef Conference.