That McDonald’s has provided a tremendous economic boost to America’s beef industry the past 60 years is undisputable. Going forward, however, McDonald’s influence on your business may be more demanding, and the economic benefits may be even less quantifiable. That’s because McDonald’s recently pledged to work with suppliers to ensure agricultural raw materials and packaging come from sustainable sources, and “cleaning up” the beef supply chain is the company’s top priority.
McDonald’s – and many other large companies – are feverishly working to convince consumers their products are environmentally friendly. Many of those programs are significantly reducing CO2 emissions, cutting energy consumption and generally improving the image of participating companies.
McDonald’s commitment to such programs is evident in the fact the company has a vice president of Corporate Responsibility, Bob Langert. Of more importance to you is the fact that Langert, in his quest to make McDonald’s greener, is working closely with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a group of five million members that claims to be the largest privately financed international conservation organization in the world.
In 2009, McDonald’s began reviewing the impact of its supply chain. That’s when they invited WWF to look at what McDonald’s buys, how much it purchases and who it buys from. The WWF performed what was termed a “detailed analysis,” and the beef supply chain became a top priority.
“Beef has its fair share of impacts on the world, and we have a role to play to reduce its impact,” Langert says. “We have done a carbon footprint analysis, and beef rises to the top as the number one priority.”
McDonald’s says the company has completed “a comprehensive Sustainable Land Management Commitment, developed in partnership with World Wildlife Fund, that summarizes our commitment to work with suppliers toward the goal ensuring that agricultural raw materials for our products originate from legal and sustainably managed land resources.”
Specifically, McDonald’s hopes to measure and reduce CO2 emissions from farms, and develop a program to trace and certify sustainable beef in the Amazon to make sure that no beef from deforested areas is used.
Lofty goals, indeed. But beef producers would be wise to listen to McDonald’s. This is a company that has served 100 billion customers since its founding more than 60 years ago, and currently serves 58 million customers every day in more than 32,000 restaurants world-wide. That means nearly one percent of the world’s population visits a McDonald’s everyday!
Numbers like those suggest the company knows more than a little about marketing, and while McDonald’s may be famous for the Big Mac, recent advertising campaigns don’t rely on hamburgers to get customers to walk under the Golden Arches.
Today, McDonald’s doesn’t just sell hamburgers and fries. They sell cool – as in free Wi-Fi, premium-blend coffee, salads, veggie burgers and “really cool” milkshakes.
“We strive to ensure that every step of the McDonald’s supply chain contributes positively to the safety, quality and availability of our final products,” the company says. “We also want our product ingredients to be produced in ways that contribute positively to the development of sustainable agricultural and food manufacturing practices.”
McDonald’s is already “working closely with direct suppliers to continuously improve the practices that impact their employees, their communities, the environment, their own suppliers, and, of course, our customers.”
Further, the company says, their “suppliers are expected to share and apply our vision of sustainable supply to their own suppliers (our indirect suppliers). We also ask them to help us understand industry-wide sustainability challenges and opportunities related to the ingredients they use to make our products.”
Maybe you bristle at the suggestion the beef supply chain needs “cleaning up,” as the WWF suggests, and with good reason. Beef producers can point to their stewardship and environmental awareness as an American success story.
But, McDonald’s is striving to satisfy their modern customers. To do so, the company that is the world’s largest purchaser of beef is asking for your help. They want new assurances about beef quality and the environment. Are we listening?