Finding sustainable beef certification questionable

To the editor;

I was rather underwhelmed by recent press regarding McDonalds starting to sell “certified sustainable beef”.

Claims that this is the first such program in the world don’t bear much scrutiny. Having read the program production protocols, I can assure you they are considerably less rigorous than those I was meeting for the Scottish Farm Assurance program in the early 1990s.

My experience with that program doesn’t encourage me that there will be any benefit to Canadian cattle producers from this program in the long run. The Scottish model similarly encouraged early participation with the promise of market premiums, yet once a critical mass was achieved the premiums disappeared and anyone that wasn’t “Farm Assured” had their produce discounted in the marketplace.

I predict Canada will follow the same path as Scotland with the cattle producer left to shoulder the burden of ongoing costs and regulation to meet the standards in perpetuity for no financial benefit. With only $20 per head being used as the bait in the trap — and this being paid to the feedlot operator — the rancher likely won’t get enough to buy a Big Mac the day he is in town selling his calves!

What really rankles me though, is that farmers and ranchers must be certified as having production practices attaining a certain level of environmental and operational sustainability – for McDonalds! The same McDonalds whose menu items are generally considered junk food contributing to the obesity epidemic and include a throw away Chinese made plastic toy with every “kids meal”?

I’d like to know where the sustainability, environmental or otherwise, is in this case, and who is auditing them?

I think the real driver of this program is fulfilling the desire of agri-food processors and retailers to environmentally “greenwash” their corporate images in the eyes of the consumer.

What they are really trying to buy for $20 is the trusted reputation farmers and ranchers have built up over generations.

I’m sorry, but mine isn’t for sale and I won’t be participating in any such scheme.

Iain Aitken

Belmont, Manitoba

Editor’s note: Iain AItken, He is a National Farmers Union member from Belmont, MB, who raises Luing cattle using a low-cost, grass-based system using minimal machinery.

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