A year-long trial has shown that it's possible to produce a beef pattie sustainably across the supply chain in New Zealand, says the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Key players in the red meat industry partnered with MPI's Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund to develop a model for producing independently verified sustainable beef through the entire supply chain.
The project was aimed at helping meet the growing demand for ethically sourced and sustainable products, said MPI
"The project showed that New Zealand can do this, and the model can be scaled up – so this really is an encouraging milestone," Steve Penno, MPI's Director Investment Programmes said.
"It provides transparency to customers and the public in a way that hasn't been possible before."
The trial used the McDonald's supply chain as a test case.
Six farms, three processing companies, ANZCO Foods, Greenlea and Silver Fern Farms (comprising 50 per cent of New Zealand's beef industry), and Beef+Lamb New Zealand collaborated to work out how to meet sustainability requirements.
"It was awesome to see the wider industry working together for a common goal rather than competing with each other to see 'who can be the most sustainable'" Penno said.
The pilot focused on the sustainable principles of economic, environmental, and social responsibility.
It involved an independent audit and verification of the supply chain's sustainability, including on-farm, meat processing and patty production.
It also aimed to address the stakeholder expectations identified in the Red Meat Profit Partnership and New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef materiality studies, completed in 2019.
These priorities included water quality and water use, animal welfare, and on-farm environmental management.
The trial showed that the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme Plus (NZFAP+), developed under the Red Meat Profit Partnership, was an important part of demonstrating New Zealand's ability to produce sustainable beef on-farm.
NZFAP+ complements and builds on the existing Farm Assurance Programme with three additional components: Farm Environment, People, and Biosecurity.
It has been designed to protect and enhance all resources, create better and more sustainable farming businesses, and incorporate socially responsible and ethical practices.
This programme is expected to be rolled out more widely in April.
McDonald's Restaurants NZ, which serves 1.6 million people in New Zealand every week, said it was proud to play a role in moving the industry further towards sustainable practices.
"More and more our customers are asking us how our beef is produced," Dave Howse, Managing Director McDonald's Restaurants NZ said.
"We need to change and evolve with the times and we also need to lead – and sustainability is one of those areas where we really feel we can work with industry to move things forward."
The New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef will look at building on the success of the pilot project by involving more farms and promoting the adoption of NZFAP+.
"Many of New Zealand farmers' practices are already sustainable and we hope that over time these practices will be adopted as the new norm," Grant Bunting, New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef chairman said.
"We have the opportunity to be world leaders and consciously create a complete food package that is better for the planet."