McDonald’s Dupes Customers Into Thinking Its Beef Will Be Eco-Friendly

McDonald’s has announced that it has “achieved internal alignment and energy around [the] aspirational goal” of buying only “verifiable, sustainable beef.”

It sounds like McDonald’s is trying to say, through a mess of corporate jargon, that it is going to do something good for the environment. Perhaps the restaurant chain wants to create the impression that instead of throwing all its beef-buying business to factory farms, it will start purchasing from the mythical family farm, where cows roam freely and live happily until their throats are sliced open before they reach even a quarter of their natural age.

But neither business model is environmentally sustainable. There is no such thing as “sustainable beef,” and there never will be — at least, not until lab-grown meat can be mass-produced efficiently.

Most meat consumed in the U.S. today comes from animals who were fattened at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are notorious environmental disasters.

Let’s look at poop. The animals in American CAFOs — not counting breeding facilities, slaughterhouses, or any other kind of facility — produce three times more waste than all the human Americans do put together. Mother Nature Network reported that the yearly “575 billion pounds of parasite, bacteria, virus, pesticide, antibiotic, antibiotic-resistant pathogen, nitrate and hormone-infested manure” winds up in the water, air, and soil around CAFOs.

When meat producers aren’t polluting the land, they are clear-cutting it. CAFO-fed cows are forced to eat an unnatural diet of soy and corn, which means farmers have to grow an awful lot of those two crops. “Huge swathes of rainforest and other timbered areas have been wiped out to grow corn and soy beans to feed to cattle,” according to Green Living Tips.

CAFOs aren’t the only problem. Every stage of beef production harms the environment, as World Watch Institute summarizes: “the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future — deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, [and] biodiversity loss.”

But the idyll of grass-fed, pasture-raised cows, while more humane to the cows, is even worse for the environment. James McWilliams identified some of the problems in The New York Times, like the fact that we simply don’t have enough land to produce the amount of beef consumers currently buy if all the cows were pasture-fed. “It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land,” McWilliams wrote. The solution would probably be to clear cut more forests, destroying eco-systems, wiping out species, and destroying oxygen-producing trees. That is exactly what the beef industry has already done: a “tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle,” McWilliams noted.

Also, ”grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows.”

One more problem with McDonald’s plan for “verifiable, sustainable meat”: nobody verifies the sustainability of meat, probably because meat isn’t sustainable.

McDonald’s announcement, being meaningless, is almost non-news — except for one thing: the fact that the company went to the trouble of making this stuff up shows that corporations believe being eco-friendly is good for business.

Way to go, environmentalists! Corporate America hereby acknowledges that we are an economic force, which means we have leverage. Keep up the good work.

Photo credit: silver marquis


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jp Jp
Jp Jp3 years ago


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Tyler O.
Tyler O4 years ago

sorry got cut off...cont: I love providing care for the animals, nurturing crops, and providing a food product for someone to consume and nourish their bodies with. I am only part of the equation though, their are many links that make up the meat industry chain and when one is criticized we all have to stand together. We are all one in our community whether you have three cows or 20,000 cows. We all have a common goal and that is to provide a safe wholesome product. Those are my values, my beliefs and my goals.

Tyler O.
Tyler O4 years ago

Thomas T. I thank you for the kind words, you show a lot of intelligence. I have a concern though not just with your topic but a concern that is always thrown at Agriculture. What exactly is Factory Farming? Where do we set the line when a farm moves away from a Family Farm to a Factory Farm? Am I a Family Farm or because we own more cattle than the average rancher are we a factory farm? Are we a Factory Farm because we "precondition" our calves to prepare them for the feedlot? We wean the calves, place them in a lot for 45 to 60 days to monitor their eating, health, and general well being. During this time we are preparing them for the Feedlot. They receive a controlled diet of corn and gluten pellet ration twice a day along with as much hay and other forage available they can possibly eat. They have access to clean water 24/7 and ample room to lay down, move around, play king of the manure mound...etc. Next it wasn't the article I was originally thinking of but this one moves along the same lines This article will explain why Meat Production looks so bad. Finally I am concerned because my family background has been farming and ranching. I have lived in the country all my life and I love farming and ranching. I love providing care for the animals, nurturing crops, and providing a food product for someone to consume and nourish their bodie

Matt Peake
Matt Peake4 years ago

meat kills simple, the hormones in it and the cancer cells/pus/blood and whatever else gross and nasty at a cellular level and genetic level, cooking meat cause heterocyclic amines which are highly carcinogenic! let alone the diseases associated with a meat/dairy diet~diabetes, AMIs CVAs etc etc WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

Michelle R.
4 years ago

McDonalds must really think that people are brain dead to believe those lies....well maybe eating there often kills brain cells, wouldn't surprise me a bit..
Stop eating out at fast food restaurants, cook your own meals, it is healthier, cheaper and it doesn't take up much time.
There are millions of yummy recipes on the internet!!

Sherri Simms
Sherri S4 years ago

This sounds like BS to me! Kind of like Sam's (Sam's/Wal-Mart) organic line of products! Like someone here mentioned, big corporations understand that "natural, organic, sustainable, eco-friendly" are buzz words they can use to manipulate customers into believing they really care about their clients and the environment. I have nothing against anyone who wants to eat McDonalds. It is what is it, but don't be fooled by this BS!

Micha Shepher
Micha Shepher4 years ago

There is no such thing as sustainable beef, (not yet), unless all of the cows and calves are roaming and grazing and not getting any artificial food additives. If there is not enough grass to feed the animals then the whole thing is unsustainable.

For there to be sustainable beef, the price of beef has to quadruple (or more) and there should stringent checks on the origin of the animals, as well as a total ban on export and import.

The fat and lazy Americans are never going to succumb to that, even though, the US might be the best place in the world to realize such a scheme. But since everything in our world (and especially in America) revolved around the bottom line and the survival of the most profitable, such thing remains a utopia.

All this said unrelated to the suffering and cruelty cattle is subjected to, McDonald's or elsewhere: But cattle raising

simon short
Simon Short4 years ago

Excellent article, clearly defining the harsh difference between genuine ecological awareness (Which we need to save us all dying horribly) against marketing "Greenwash" which portrays "Nature" as some magic kingdom of eternal sunshine without factories.
Yes, it's vital that meat is lessened as part of our daily diet - but NOT as a "Luxury item" which it's a status symbol to eat - or it'll just be farmed for a massive profit.
That's a tricky balance to pull off but, as the fine article points out, the only reason "Green" is being used as a marketing tool is because purchaser preference has power.
In the long run (Which is to say, NOW and ever more strongly as time goes on) the more of us there are, the less there will be to eat. This means those who are not rich will be eating less and less attractive foodstuffs. Already you'll have noticed how the standard of things is slipping, how factory produced waste products are being used more for staple foods and how food prices are rising.
We must have less kids - not the poor, not any one nation or any race but ALL of us, or those kids will have nothing to eat but algae... and even that will become more expensive. Whether you're rich or poor, the fact is the same, it'll get worse.
Enjoy your food. Value it for it's place in the natural world.
Please don't eat us all out of house and home.