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McDonald’s invests in sustainable beef for burgers

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McDonald’s is looking to set the industry standard for serving sustainable beef.

Two years ago, the chain announced plans to switch over to cage-free eggs by 2025. Now, the company is vowing to source a portion of its beef patties from sustainable suppliers by the end of 2020.

McDonald’s will take part in two pilot programs to fund sustainably-raised beef, reports Fortune. The first, run by the Noble Foundation, will focus on the viability of sourcing sustainable beef throughout the company’s supply chain. In the second, they’ll be matching a grant of $4.5 million to test new grazing processes that could result in negative carbon impacts.

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The result, claims the chain, is that McDonald’s will be sourcing a percentage of its meat from sustainable sources by 2020 — though it’s not clear exactly how much — to be served in its top 10- beef-eating markets. They have previously announced intentions to eliminate deforestation throughout their supply chain.

In 2016, McDonald’s also began experimenting with purchasing sustainable beef in Canada, and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the 2016 Olympics.

According to Fortune, McDonald’s sustainable beef effort initially started in 2012, when they co-founded the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. “The GRSB envisions a world in which all aspects of the beef value chain are environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable,” the organization’s website reads.

But critics like Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the food and technology program at Friends of the Earth, told Forbes that simply reducing the size of their beef offerings would have a huge impact– especially since there is no universally agreed-upon definition of “sustainable.”

“We don’t expect them to stop serving beef, but if reduced the size, they would reduce the impact,” Hamerschlag told Fortune.

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McDonald’s push to source sustainable beef mark its latest efforts toward environmental responsibility. Since taking over as CEO in 2015, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook has announced plans to increase pay for workers, remove antibiotics from its chicken supply, and serve only cage-free eggs, the latter of which was commended by Paul Shapiro, the vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States.

“It’s a real watershed moment,” Shapiro told the Associated Press at the time of the announcement. “It makes it clearer than ever that cages just do not have a future in the egg industry.”

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