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Weekly Overview: A New Look at Sustainability - Cooperation with Producers

06 February 2014

ANALYSIS - More and more companies and organisations are realising the potential of sustainability - in its many different meanings - as a means of doing business, writes Jackie Linden. At major meetings in the US in the last week, McDonald's, Tyson Foods and the environment agency all mentioned sustainability as key to their respective strategies for the future. Also in the US, there are new proposals to improve sanitary practices for businesses shipping and transporting food and animal feed.

Sustainability is not broken but rather, it is filled with opportunity to grow the industry, according to Bob Langert, McDonald's VP of Global Sustainability, speaking at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association meeting in Nashville this week.

The company's strategy is to change the mind-set that sustainability is a nebulous term and something to fear. Instead, the company is focused on using sustainability as a means to grow its business while making a positive difference in society.

Mr Langert told the meeting: "We came here to collaborate, not mandate. Our philosophy at McDonald's is that we have long-term relationships with our suppliers. Our whole spirit of working with the supply chain is hand-shake agreements. We're not one to dictate on high and prescribe how things get done and to me that's not sustainable either. We respect our suppliers - we respect that they are the experts."

Sustainability and welfare must be benchmarked in modern livestock production, senior figures at Tyson Foods and McDonald’s said, acknowledging the growing need for labels and checklists in order to please an increasingly savvy consumer market.

At the International Production & Processing Expo last week, delegates at a summit on sustainability were told: "The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to build relationships with animal producers to facilitate sustainable agriculture."

Jeff Potent, environmental protection specialist for the EPA's Office of Wastewater Management said during the Animal Agriculture Sustainability Summit: "At the EPA, sustainability is not our mission, per se, and we’re struggling to understand what that means for us. We need to listen to and work with stakeholders."

The EPA came to IPPE "to broaden how we do business. We want to collaborate with the livestock industry. Regulations have their place; however, we want to improve relationships between the EPA and livestock producers. We need to work together on this path. There is no expert on sustainability that we can call up on the phone."

"Manure management is a big challenge," according to Mr Potent.

Staying focused on the US but on a different topic, after three long years of starts and stops, the US Senate voted in a rare bipartisan agreement to approve the nearly $1 trillion 2014 Farm Bill with a vote of 68-32.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put forward proposals for sanitary practices for businesses shipping and transporting food and animal feed.

The new regulations, a requirement of the Food Safety Modernization Act, are designed to ensure that food is not transported under conditions that may cause the food to become adulterated.

And finally, turning to bird flu news, a second human case of H10N8 in China has led the authorities there to warn of the pandemic potential of this virus, while the Chinese poultry industry has called for a reduction in the media coverage of H7N9 cases as a means of limiting the economic damage to the sector. An international meeting has addressed the possibility of the H7N9 virus reaching African countries.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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