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McDonald’s Promised Sustainable Beef, but That Doesn’t Exist

In 2014, McDonald’s announced its decision to “begin purchasing a portion of beef from verified sustainable sources in 2016. As that deadline threatens to pass, however, the company faces the reality that sustainable beef doesn’t exist.

According to a recent Buzzfeed News article, the fast-food giant intentionally made its 2014 commitment vague, offering few details about what “sustainable meant, how much of its beef it hoped would be sustainable, or where it would be sold. Why? As even top beef producers JBS and Cargill will tell you, it’s because “sustainable beef isn’t any different from conventional beef.

Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Food Association, explains:
The only way that beef production can be truly “sustainable is if Americans consume a whole lot less. It’s mathematically impossible to feed the current American beef habit with “grass-fed or other allegedly more sustainable beef.
In an effort to defend sustainability claims, the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, a group made up of beef industry insiders, attempted to define sustainable beef: “beef that is produced in an environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable way. This is also conveniently vague.

But why is beef unsustainable?

Raising cattle for beef (and dairy) is one of the leading producers of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas that has 25 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide on a 100-year scale.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that intestinal gas from livestock, mainly cattle, is the second-largest source of U.S. methane emissions. According to a report released by the EPA last week, these emissions amounted to the equivalent of 648 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014, with manure adding another 60 million. It’s clear that consuming beef is killing our planet.

One of the best ways to live a green lifestyle is to switch to a truly sustainable plant-based diet.

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