Bob Langert – Defines Sustainability

(Bob) The question of defining sustainability is really, really important. I think the answer is two fold. One, it has to be holistic. Sustainability is not one dimension. So, it involves social aspects, environmental aspects, and economic aspects. So the economic viability of the beef industry is really core to everything. The social aspect including animal treatment, respect for the land and the environment. So this triple bottom line, I think is a good way of looking at it. I think the other way of looking at it is sustainability should be defined as always getting better. The proof has to come in the scientific form then. We gotta lead by science. And I think one of my concerns with the whole sustainability effort going on related to food and ag is the wrong people and too many activists are setting the agenda not based on science. So yes, science should lead the way. (Eric) Well the mission of the global round table for sustainable beef was to take this fuzzy area, what is sustainable beef? (Bob) And actually come to a consensus to it. And one of the ways to come to a consensus is getting every part of the supply chain there- the ranchers, the producers, the feedlot operators, retailers and environmental groups, and animal welfare experts. And I think they did a great job now of defining a set of five principles and 42 criteria. And this group by voted 95 percent membership that this is a really good definition. McDonalds, we want to source all of our food and packaging from verifiable, sustainable sources. So, that’s our vision. And right now we’re concentrating on 100 percent by 2020 of palm oil, coffee, fish and fiber. So, with beef we want to start purchasing sustainable beef by 2016 and set a goal for what that would be in 2020. So, more to come. We’re looking at all these different round tables of what’s happening in our states, Canada, Brazil, Ireland and other areas, because it’s not just a U.S. effort. This is a global effort and a global movement. (Eric) It was brought up in the question and answer about technology as it applies to food production and a specific example shared by the individual was genetically modified organisms. And you really pressed the point that technology gets short shift in a lot of the discussion these days in the public opinion view. (Bob) Technology is gonna be a way to make the world better. We can make better food, better nutrition, better safety, lesser impacts through the use of technology. You know, I know the NCDA is very supportive of sustainability efforts. And their life cycle analysis is putting more science forth about how the entire beef industry is reducing impact for energy use, water use, etc. Let’s do more of that. And let’s work with marketers to figure out how to create the messages that resonate with consumers.

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