You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

How McDonald's Defines 'Sustainable' Beef Will Impact the Entire Industry As McDonald's promises to buy 'verified sustainable' beef by 2016, the question remains -- what exactly is sustainable beef?

By Kate Taylor

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Brian Blanco/USA Today

Forget "Where's the beef?" For McDonald's, the question is "What's the beef?'"

McDonald's announced plans yesterday to begin purchasing "verified sustainable" beef by 2016. First, however, the burger chain needs to figure out exactly what "sustainable beef" means-- a question that will impact the entire industry.

With no working definition of "sustainable" beef, McDonald's and other food-industry stakeholders have created the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Founding members of the GRSB include environmental groups, beef industry suppliers and retailers such as Wal-Mart and Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse).

"The direction by the GRSB will impact the entire beef industry, not just McDonald's," said McDonald's spokesperson Jon Rump. "We are optimistic and confident that the criteria will meet the needs of all stakeholders, including McDonald's."

Related: McDonald's to Scrap Soda From 'Happy Meal' Ads, Offer Healthy Sides in Value Meals

The GRSB's understanding of sustainability remain nebulous, with unclear effects on the industry.

"Where the beef will come from and where it will be sold is part of the work in progress," said Rump. "Traceability will likely be a key part of the standards outlined by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). Some areas of the world are more advanced when it comes to traceability capabilities and it is likely that our first purchases will come from one of those areas."

The group's "Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Beef" is set to be released to the public on March 1, according to GreenBiz.com. So far, McDonald's webpage on sustainable beef indicates that changes will necessitate production cycles that positively impact employees, care for the welfare of cattle and "optimize cattle's impact within ecosystems and nutrient cycles."

As the beef supply chain is made up of independent players from ranchers to patty producers, a thorough industry definition of sustainability takes both time and cooperation. McDonald's began its work on sustainable beef in 2011. This year, the company hopes to develop principles and criteria. By 2016, the goal is to begin purchasing verified sustainable beef.

With high-profile collaborators such as Wal-Mart and Darden Restaurants, McDonald's shift towards sustainability will affect more than environmentally-conscious customers. In the past, fast-food chains have been able to hide behind labels such as "responsibly raised" or "fresh ground" beef. With McDonald's shaping a new definition of sustainable beef, backed by both environmental group and retail big-shots, how will other chains adjust?

Related: What's the Beef? Chipotle Faces Loyalty Issues Over Meat Standards

Kate Taylor

Reporter

Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

Nike Responds to Criticism Over U.S. Women's Olympic Uniforms: 'Everything's Showing'

The company is the official outfitter for the U.S. Olympic track and field athletes.

Business News

The 'Silver Tsunami' Meets 'Golden Handcuffs' as Past Low Mortgage Rates Lock in Homeowners — Whether They Like It or Not

The resulting lower supply of homes, and population growth outpacing construction, has led to a 7.2 million home shortage.

Growing a Business

Top Brands Are Flocking to Newsletter Advertising — Here Are 11 Reasons Why You Should Do the Same.

An explanation of the current market trend of brands turning to newsletter advertising as a primary channel in their marketing campaigns.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

These Are the Busiest Airports in the World, According to a New Ranking

A surge in international and business travel has brought airports back to near pre-pandemic levels of passenger traffic.