Manitoba

McDonald's seeks sustainable beef producers in Manitoba

The next time you bite into a Big Mac or fill your face with that Quarter Pounder, it could be coming from an animal that was raised right here in Manitoba.

Pilot program underway to verify farming operations as sustainable

McDonald's is looking for sustainable operations in Manitoba as potential new sources of beef. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The next time you bite into a Big Mac or fill your face with that Quarter-Pounder, it could be coming from an animal that was raised right here in Manitoba.

McDonald's Canada is in the final months of a pilot project to verify cattle farms that supply beef to the restaurant chain across Canada as sustainable. Canada is the first country in the world the pilot project is being tested in.

"It's going really, really well for us," said to Jeffrey Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, McDonald's manager of sustainability in Canada. "We've had incredible support from across the country from producers wanting to participate in it." 

He said 90 farms have completed full verifications across Canada and another 30 to 40 are scheduled between now and the end of March. The majority of those producers are from Western Canada, including Manitoba, according to Fitzpatrick-Stilwell. 

The pilot project is part of a larger project that will see the corporation purchase beef for restaurants from sustainable sources, he said. 

"A lot of [our beef] does come from Alberta," he said. "But certainly a portion of it is born in Manitoba and ends up in Alberta." 

Verification involves a third party inspecting a farm and speaking with producers about how their operations affect things like the ecosystem and nutrient cycles, the lives of their employees, the community and animal health and welfare. 

"How do we verify these things so that we can go out and talk to consumers," he said. "I'm going to be talking with consumers a lot more about verifying that our beef is coming from sustainable operations." 

Fitzpatrick-Stilwell said for the consumer, it's about knowing that the company is paying attention to issues like nutrient management when sourcing the food that ends up in the restaurant. 

Ramona Blythe, president of the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative, farms near MacGregor, Man. She is taking part in the pilot program and echoes those thoughts.

"We've learned over time that consumers want to know where their food comes from," she said. "This gives us a platform to show science-based research of how food is produced and brought from our gate to their plate." 

We've learned over time that consumers want to know where their food comes from.- Ramona Blyth, beef producer near MacGregor, Man. 

Her farm is still waiting for a verification audit to occur. She said it was a program she would recommend for others. 

MBFI and McDonald's also announced a partnership in Brandon, Man. on Thursday that will see stakeholders and others tour sustainable operations across Manitoba and Canada. 

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