It's Impossible To Know What McDonald's 'Sustainable Beef' Will Be

McDonald’s said Tuesday that it will start buying “verified sustainable beef” in 2016, but the company doesn’t exactly know what that means.

“Over the years, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with our suppliers to get better at responsible purchasing,” the company announced on its website. “We’re now committing to a goal of purchasing verified sustainable beef. This sounds simple, but it’s actually a big challenge because there hasn’t been a universal definition of sustainable beef.”

McDonald’s is working with beef suppliers, environmental activists, and companies like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Unilever to come up with a definition, reports. Once the term “sustainable beef” is defined, McDonald’s can ostensibly start buying it.

The fast food chain’s announcement comes as consumers have become increasingly obsessed with knowing how and where their meat was sourced and processed. That trend has helped businesses like Chipotle, which promises “naturally raised” pork, beef and chicken that’s largely free of antibiotics.

But the trend has had an adverse affect on McDonald’s, which has more than 400,000 beef suppliers, according to GreenBiz.

“We’ve upped our game related to how we’re approaching corporate social responsibility and sustainability at McDonald’s,” Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president of global sustainability, told GreenBiz. “The beef goal… fits into a big picture where senior leadership says we need to do more, take a bigger stake, be a bigger leader and connect with consumers more. Beef is one of the lead things coming out of that effort.”

Eventually, the company would like 100% of its beef to be sustainable, Langert says.

But first, McDonald’s will have to figure what that means.

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