Cargill said it will launch an initiative this month in Canada to test new technologies for tracking cattle with the goal of developing a verified sustainability standard to give consumers more information about the beef they eat.
Called the Cargill Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration pilot, the effort should move the company’s customers — by the end of 2018 — a step closer to providing consumers with beef from operations that have been audited from ‘birth to burger’ using an industry developed sustainability standard, Cargill said.
The pilot will include only Canadian cattle, starting with animals processed at Cargill’s High River, Alberta, facility.
Using the Canadian beef industry’s existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag system, cattle will be tracked by the Beef Info-Exchange System (BIXS) from the time producers tag them, through processing at Cargill’s High River beef plant. Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) – overseen by the Beef Cattle Research Council and operated with the assistance of provincial cattle organizations – will be the first certification body used to audit cattle producers who choose to participate.
Cattle producers that participate get help to offset the increased costs associated with implementing and running the pilot. McDonald’s Canada, Loblaw Cos. and the Swiss Chalet Rotisserie and Grill restaurant unit of Vaughan, Ontario-based CARA Operations Ltd. are the Cargill customers initially participating in the pilot.
“Consumer research tells us there is a thirst for this type of information,” said Gurneesh Bhandal, Cargill’s beef sustainability manager. “Our yearlong 2017-2018 sustainability pilot will help create the infrastructure needed to implement the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s standard in our supply chain, providing our customers and consumers with an increased level of trust in the beef they purchase and eat.”
A variety of technologies will be explored, such as DNA testing and blockchain – a shared, continually reconciled, decentralized Internet database tool – to determine their long-term value, Cargill said. The pilot builds on McDonald’s pioneering beef sustainability effort completed in 2016, in which nearly 9,000 cattle were tracked through the entire supply chain.