WINNIPEG, Manitoba – First quarter results of Cargill’s Canadian beef sustainability project delivered encouraging results including the successful certification of more than 550,000 lbs. of beef produced by more than 70 cattle producers, the company reported.

Participating cattle ranchers received $10-per-head for qualifying cattle that could be tracked through audited sustainable operations from farm to fork. Cargill is encouraging more ranchers to join the pilot program.

“We are encouraged by the pilot’s first quarter results. It proved that a significant volume of beef can be successfully traced through a certified supply chain for the participating customers,” said Gurneesh Bhandal, Cargill’s beef sustainability manager in Toronto, Ontario. “By adding more producers to the pilot, we can supply more customers with Canadian beef from sustainable sources.”

Cargill launched the pilot program as a test of audit and traceability systems needed to meet Certified Sustainable Beef Framework standards created by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB).

Activities in the first three months included testing and developing methodology for tracking eligible cattle through audited live animal supply chains. The methodology for tracking supply chain sustainability certifications from the beef carcass to finished products also was tested during the period

Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) is auditing cattle producers during the pilot. The Beef Cattle Research Council oversees VBP+ with assistance from provincial cattle organizations.

The Beef Info-Exchange System’s (BIXS) RFID tagging system tracks the cattle from the animals are tagged through processing at Cargill’s High River beef plant. BIXS acts as the clearing house for the Canadian Sustainability Acceleration Pilot and will disperse the first round of credit payments to cattle producers by March 19.

“We appreciate the enthusiasm we’ve seen and momentum that’s been generated in the first few months of the pilot, and we are encouraged by the continued interest shown from additional cow/calf producers, feedlot operators and processing plants,” Bhandal said.

Where Food Comes From (WFCF) joined the pilot project in March as the second auditing firm. WFCF was the sole verification partner for the 2014-2016 McDonald’s Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot project. Leann Saunders, WFCF president, said the organization verifies more than 5,000 beef producers in North America to help supply chains improve processes, bundle certifications and add value.

“We were able to verify over 200 producers during the McDonald’s Verified Sustainable Beef Pilot Project in Canada and look forward to applying this knowledge as a certifier for the CBSA pilot,” Saunders said.