Trade

US supermarket giant Walmart takes stake in sustainable beef producer/processor

Beef Central, 02/09/2022

US supermarket giant Walmart has taken a strategic interest in US cattle producer-owned Sustainable Beef LLC to “increase its visibility in the beef supply chain and help ranchers grow their business.”

The investment announced yesterday includes a minority stake in Sustainable Beef, a rancher-owned company based in North Platte, Nebraska.

Walmart is the world’s largest supermarket retailer, with 10,500 stores across the US and 23 other countries – about ten times the size of Australia’s Woolworths. Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue (about US$570 billion a year), and the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million staff.

In a financial statement Walmart said its investment was part of a broader strategic partnership to source top-quality Angus beef from Sustainable Beef LLC’s new beef processing facility.

“This partnership helps supplement the current beef industry and provides additional opportunities for ranchers to increase their business,” it said.

As part of its investment, Walmart will also take a seat on Sustainable Beef’s board.

Walmart’s investment would help Sustainable Beef LLC open its new beef processing facility in Nebraska. The plant is expected to break ground next month and open by late 2024, creating more than 800 new jobs.

Walmart’s work with Sustainable Beef would create more processing capacity for the US beef industry – a topic of considerable debate in the US ever since it lost 40pc of processing capacity due to illness at the height of the COVID outbreak in 2020.

“At Walmart, we are dedicated to providing high-quality, affordable beef to our customers, and an investment in Sustainable Beef will give us even more access to these products,” Walmart’s senior vice president of merchandising for meat Tyler Lehr said in a statement.

“We know Sustainable Beef LLC has a responsible approach to beef processing, one that includes creating long-term growth for cattle ranchers and family farmers. This investment provides greater visibility into the beef supply chain and complements Walmart’s regeneration commitment to improve grazing management,” he said.

As its name suggests, Sustainable Beef LLC places a high priority on sustainable and regenerative beef production, working with cattle feeders and ranchers to understand critical elements of the supply chain cycle, such as grain sourcing and grazing management.

Animal management under the program follows the Five Freedoms, and there will be a consistent approach to antibiotic use and reporting across herds in line with Walmart’s Position on Antibiotics in Animals, which asks suppliers to adopt and implement American Veterinary Medical Association Judicious Use Principles of Antimicrobials.

All of these components will help Sustainable Beef to improve and refine the beef supply chain to provide quality beef for customers, it said.

“We set out on a journey two years ago to create a new beef processing plant to add some capacity to the industry and provide an opportunity for producers to integrate their business of raising quality cattle with the beef processing portion of the industry and do it in a sustainable manner,” said Sustainable Beef chief executive David Briggs.

“During this journey we found that Sustainable Beef and Walmart aligned on continuing to improve how we care for our animals and crops and provide consumers the positive experience of enjoying quality beef.”

Walmart’s investment in Sustainable Beef LLC is the latest step in the retailer’s commitment to increasing access to quality beef at an affordable price for its customers, while boosting capacity for the beef industry and ensuring long-term economic viability for cattle ranchers, the statement said.

 

 

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  1. Patrick Francis, 02/09/2022

    I note there is no by-line on this article. It concerns me that the author uses the phrase “…Sustainable Beef LLC places a high priority on sustainable and regenerative beef production…”, but what does this mean in practice? How does sustainable differ from regenerative in terms of outcomes for the farm’s ecosystems services, and for trends in greenhouse gas emissions per kg of carcase weight produced. Is the use of the terms simply green washing or is there management going on that is producing positive outcomes, if the latter the author needs to provide more detail.

    Good questions, Pat – as always. The Walmart/Sustainable Beef statement that the article is based on was not specific about the terms of the ‘sustainable’ claims. Nor was the Sustainable Beef LLC website. However we are aware that there are moves to established USDA-certified standards for raising claims around words like ‘sustainable’ and ‘regenerative’, but do not know where they are up to.
    Regarding our use of bylines, it is our practice to only use bylines where one of our journalists has had significant input into the article. There is nothing wrong with publishing relevant press release material like that contained in the Walmart statement, but you will never see one of our bylines on it. We consider it a matter of professional integrity. Editor

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