Leading NGOs expose greenwashing by U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, demand real sustainability plan

Leading NGOs expose greenwashing by U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, demand real sustainability plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  A coalition of 50 environmental, consumer, animal welfare, farmer and public health groups representing millions of constituents issued a powerful critique of the U.S Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s new “sustainability” framework for beef production in a letter released today.

Led by industry giants like McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD), JBS (BZ: JBSS3) and Elanco (NYSE: LLY), the USRSB is a multi-stakeholder initiative that is developing a new “sustainability” framework for the U.S. beef sector. The Roundtable recently invited comment on the framework.

Numerous groups, including Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Organization for Competitive Markets, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, IFOAM Organics International, Family Farm Defenders, Slow Food USA, Food Tank, American Grassfed Association and A Greener World are pushing the Roundtable to do better. The groups “stand strongly opposed to this framework and initiative in its current form because it does not meaningfully advance sustainability goals.” The letter also highlights USRSB’s failure “to create a plan of action to address corporate consolidation and other core policy and regulatory issues that remain barriers to advancing sustainability.”

“The Roundtable’s blatant greenwashing will undermine truly sustainable, organic and regenerative beef producers who are actually doing the hard work to protect natural resources, workers and animal welfare,” said Kari Hamerschlag, Food and Agriculture deputy director at Friends of the Earth. “We are especially concerned that companies like Walmart, Costco, McDonald’s, Darden and Wendy’s will make sustainability claims to their customers based on the Roundtable’s meager and misguided metrics.”

The letter explains in detail why the framework’s approach and metrics will fail to significantly reduce the major harmful impacts of factory farming and poor grazing management on the environment, communities and workers. 

These serious harms include:

  • surface water, groundwater and air pollution;
  • massive greenhouse gas emissions;
  • the rise and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria;
  • harm to fish, wildlife and biodiversity;
  • high worker injury rates; and
  • poor treatment of farm animals


Most of the USRSB’s indicators and metrics do not focus on measurably reducing impacts, and continue to allow for the use of growth hormones and routine antibiotics.

The letter makes 10 recommendations and “strongly encourages the USRSB to go back to the drawing board and develop a new framework and plan of action — including the need for regulatory change — that generates far more environmental, economic, health and other benefits for stakeholders.” The letter recommends “that the USRSB remove the term ‘sustainable’ from its name and choose a more accurate term that does not undermine the value of credibly sustainable and regenerative beef production systems.”

“Beef can be raised in ways that restore soil, increase carbon, and protect waters and workers. Yet far too little of our beef is produced in this way.  This framework falls far short of ensuring those goals are met. Indeed, many of the Roundtable’s leaders vigorously oppose clean water protections, transparency of impacts of facilities on neighbors, and addressing climate change. If the Roundtable wants to promote meaningful sustainability in the beef sector, then its members and particularly its leaders, should stop opposing and undermining policies that would bring us closer to sustainability, and start supporting them,” said Peter Lehner, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice.

Expert Contact: Kari Hamerschlag, (510) 207-7257, [email protected]
Communications Contact: Erin Jensen , (202) 222-0722, [email protected]

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