Canadians buying their groceries at Walmart will be getting more familiar with certified sustainable beef.
On May 10, Walmart Canada announced that beef patties from the Your Fresh Market brand will add an on-package product claim based on standards from the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB). The brand will now feature the CRSB’s “mass balance” claim label, the company said — the first time such an on-product CRSB claim will appear on grocery shelves.
Why it matters: Restaurants have been the typical customers for CRSB certified beef, but 2020 and 2021 have seen retailers also draw from Canada’s sustainable beef value chain.
Walmart Canada says it anticipates “millions” of patties will be sold nationally with the mass balance claim.
“Walmart is committed to being a regenerative company — one that works to restore, renew and replenish our planet,” Walmart Canada CEO and president Horacio Barbeito said. “Offering this new line of beef patties with sustainability certification is part of our journey and a proud moment for our entire team.
“Our ongoing partnership with the CRSB helps drive the shared goal of advancing sustainability within the Canadian beef industry. Each of us can take pride in knowing that our collective actions support global sustainability commitments.”
The “mass balance” logo requires that at least 30 per cent of beef in that product come from CRSB certified farms.
Canada is now several years into its certified sustainable value chain, an initiative first started as a pilot with McDonald’s and major beef processor Cargill. Farms, feedlots and processors wanting to fold into the value chain must pass an audit by an authorized certification body (such as Verified Beef Production Plus, Where Food Comes From Inc. or the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Quality Assurance Program) according to standards laid out by the CRSB.
For meat to qualify, animals must have spent their lives on and been processed by certified facilities. Farmers are then paid per head for every animal born on their farms and successfully brought through the value chain.
CRSB chair Anne Wasko welcomed the Walmart announcement.
“I think it just goes to show that as we continue to build on the certified sustainable program, that we continue to gain more ground in terms of pounds sold, more visibility, both for consumers and of course within our various members as well,” she said.
Last year, the CRSB reported 4.8 million pounds of beef sold with a claim between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Almost 1,300 farms had been certified as of the start of July, a 28 per cent jump over the year before, and about 17 per cent of Canada’s beef herd was being raised on certified sustainable farms.
As of September last year, the value chain counted three certified processors and three companies selling beef with a CRSB claim, all of them restaurants. As well as McDonald’s, both Harvey’s and Chop Steakhouse and Bar were sourcing enough beef for a claim.
It is only more recently that retailers have also signed on.
Last December, Loblaw Companies became the first major retailer to source a significant amount of certified sustainable beef. The company announced the purchase of one million pounds. At the time, the company said it was unsure how or when any claim label might be used.
Wasko said the gradual uptake is not necessarily a surprise, as companies watch to see how others choose to move forward with the CRSB.
“It’s consistent and actually I would think in the past year we’ve probably seen more activity and more interest in the program, so it’s good all the way around,” she said. “It’s been slow at times, but I think that’s part of the process of growing a new program.”
As of last summer, the organization estimated that 8.6 million pounds of beef had been sold with a claim since the program’s inception.