$4 Million Initiative Aims to Expand Sustainable Farming Practices in Beef Supply Chain
Taco Bell will soon go greener with its supply chain. The taco franchise has announced it will partner with Cargill, its longtime supplier, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to launch conservation and regenerative practices across land where beef cattle graze. The move comes as Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, battles climate change with a goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions almost 50% by 2030.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will contribute its conservation knowledge to assist beef producers with technological and financial tools to scale up their regenerative ranching processes, according to a news release from Taco Bell. At the forefront of this team effort will be careful stewardship of grassland ecosystems, improving river water quality and overall gains in biodiversity.
Why Remedial Action Is Needed
U.S. grasslands where beef cattle feed are threatened by climate change, invasive species, limited water and residential developments. Through this partnership, tens of thousands of acres of grasslands can be conserved and restored, benefiting wildlife – from elk to birds – while cattle graze alongside, according to a statement released by Taco Bell. These efforts are expected to sequester up to 44,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in 2030, the statement added.
Ranch organizations across the Intermountain West that want to participate in the Taco Bell-Cargill National Fish and Wildlife Foundation initiative can submit applications starting May 4 and until Aug. 3. The Intermountain West is defined as ranging from the Colorado Rockies to the Great Basin, encompassing parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. The program will begin in 2024.
Cargill and Taco Bell will invest $2 million in the initiative. Another $2 million will come from the federal government grants through 2027.
In the Taco Bell statement, Missy Schaaphok, director of Global Nutrition & Sustainability for Taco Bell, said the fast-food restaurant franchise is “all about democratizing access to quality, flavorful meals at an affordable price. What people don’t see directly on our menu is how we also prioritize sustainability just as much as craveability.” The statement noted that purchased food in Yum! Brands’ supply chain produces more than two-thirds of its emissions.
Jon Hixson, chief sustainability officer at Yum! Brands, cited food and farming as crucial arenas for slowing destructive climate change. “We’re proud to have partners in the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Cargill that acknowledge the great responsibility we carry to both Taco Bell fans and the environment,” Hixson said in the statement from Taco Bell.
The statement also said that Taco Bell is always looking to improve its sourcing and enhance the sustainability of packaging. The restaurant franchise, which aspires to reach 10,000 restaurants, is a member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.
Jeffrey Fitzpatrick, BeefUp Sustainability Program Lead at Cargill, said his company takes pride in “connecting our customers to partners such as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that can help drive sustainability efforts starting with nature and the rancher. Beef is a beloved ingredient at Taco Bell [and] it’s our job as their trusted supplier to encourage and support efforts that increase the sustainability of the supply chain through investment and collaboration.” The Taco Bell statement praised 157-year-old Cargill for other ways the company is climate-friendly: using feed that reduces methane emissions and supporting the creation of waste-based renewable fuels.
The Taco Bell statement quoted Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, as saying that “through the voluntary implementation of managed grazing practices, benefits to both rancher operations and wildlife are realized.” Trandahl also said that changes implemented under the program will improve the habitat for wildlife, increase carbon sequestration and create a more resilient ecosystem “for people and for the species that depend on these rangelands for their very survival.”
The 39-year-old National Fish and Wildlife Foundation protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. In its history of collaborating with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, the foundation has funded more than 6,000 organizations.