Sustainable beef initiative effort motors ahead

Harvey’s signs on to program as demand for certified sustainable beef continues to grow


By Jeff Melchior, Alberta Farmer Express (Canada)

August 7, 2019


Fast-food chain Harvey’s has become the latest major buyer to sign up for the ‘sustainable’ beef initiative.


But even while the number of retailers is increasing, most cattle producers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach that has resulted in a gap between supply and demand.


However, that gap is closing, said Ponoka rancher Greg Bowie, a director with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) and co-chair of the organization’s framework committee


“We are still seeing demand outstrip supply, but more and more producers are getting certified as time goes on,” said Bowie. “Both of the certification companies — Verified Beef Production Plus and Where Food Comes From — are trying to keep up with the demand.


“We are shooting for bigger numbers every month and every year.”


Getting Harvey’s on board will help, said Emily Murray, general manager of Cargill’s McDonald’s beef program.


“The Harvey’s announcement created a bit of a ripple effect in the industry and has definitely sparked more interest from producers, who have seen more of that marketing in public,” she said.


Harvey’s joins McDonald’s, Loblaws, Swiss Chalet, Original Joe’s and Cactus Club as a partner in a sustainable beef pilot program being run by Cargill.


Last year, about 4.7 million pounds of beef qualified as “verified” sustainable. However, according to Cargill estimates, 6.5 million pounds of eligible beef failed to qualify due to feedlots not being certified.


“Right now we’re trying to build on both the supply and demand sides,” said Bowie.


Some producers have held off on becoming certified for the program, waiting to see if demand from buyers will be ongoing. But it’s creating a chicken and egg situation as potential buyers want to know there will be sufficient supply before promoting their use of certified sustainable beef.


“One of the things we’re trying to do is get people to recognize this is not going to work if just a few people do it,” said Murray.


“This is something that truly requires broad industry support. One of our roles is to help incentivize people to tell each other about the program and make sure the people that you are selling to or buying from are aware of it.”


Some producers may be put off by the audit...