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Meeting the mark for sustainable beef

CRSB supporters hope its newly unveiled logos, trademarks and certification marks may help draw in the consumer once they start appearing on product labels and advertisements

Meeting the mark for sustainable beef

The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) hopes consumers will soon be on the lookout for its new logos.

The organization launched its trademarks and logos, along with rules on how to use them, to the market Sept. 20.

The logos and trademarks may soon be appearing on company advertisements, promotional materials or specific products in the near future, assuming that meat is sourced through a CRSB-certified supply chain.

The organization has been working toward standardized sustainability benchmarking and certification standards since 2014. In 2017, the group released its finished certification standards for both producers and processors.

Andrea White, marketing and community engagement manager with the CRSB, says the organization is still working out details on how the imaging will be rolled out to farms.

Those that have already passed an audit with VBP+ or Where Food Comes From Inc. (both approved certification bodies with the CRSB), automatically pass the bar, White said, and can sign on to use the certification mark for off-product claims.

“Any producer, whether it’s a cow-calf, a backgrounder, a feeder operation, or a primary beef processor that has been certified according to the CRSB standards would be eligible to use that (certification logo) and the statement that says that they are a certified operation,” White said.

Waters may be murkier for farms wanting to turn CRSB certification into market share for direct-marketed beef.

Those printing the logo on their product packaging or otherwise marketing specific products must pay for the privilege, as well as face a chain of custody audit to track meat through an entirely CRSB-approved sustainable supply chain. At the same time, White says, only Cargill has got the CRSB’s check of approval for processors so far, due to its work with the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration Pilot. The pilot pays a per-head amount for cattle in its sustainable supply chain and is a separate project, although it uses CRSB standards.

McDonald’s has announced it will be among those paying for the right to make product-specific claims. The restaurant chain will be using the “mass balance” certification logo, marked by the words “mass balance” near the bottom of the image to indicate that at least 30 per cent of the beef is from certified operations.

The framework sets aside another logo for meat totally sourced from certified farms throughout the supply chain.

“I think that there are some who are going to go that route where they use a certification model that has a mass balance portion of it,” Cargill sustainability manager Gurneesh Bhandal said. “Those will be customers who are planning to use the CRSB’s framework as a sourcing tool, so they actually want to identify how much of their beef is being sourced from certified operations and they want to make an on-product claim. There will be some customers who want to go a different route and talk about their overall support for the framework or their membership in the CRSB.”

There is little visual difference between the different certification marks, although Bhandal argues that similarity will not impact consumer transparency.

“I think the underlying objective of the use of these logos is to communicate more broadly about the sustainability efforts in the beef industry and build consumer trust, which I think these logos will help do,” she said. “The differences that you do see in the logos are more to signify sort of the technical differences in how companies are involved, whether they’re using it as a sourcing tool or whether it’s framework support.”

All CRSB members can use the program’s trademark, if not the certification mark, for off-product marketing, and members who have thrown their weight behind the framework, are working towards sustainable sourcing, or are an approved certification body, can add a CRSB supporter trademark in much the same way.

Brian Lemon, Manitoba Beef Producers general manager, says he has seen more traction for certified sustainable beef among their members, although it’s unclear how much the imaging will pop up at the farm level.

“Are individual producers going to take the opportunity to promote this themselves? I think time will tell on that one,” he said. “What I think there is going to be is a significant number of producers who look to become part of the supply chains where this product will ultimately get displayed with this logo at retail.”

About the author


Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.



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