As the “fast food” market expands and becomes increasingly competitive around the world, McDonald’s restaurants have been making efforts in recent years to listen more to what their customers want. Social media has been a big driver for many of these changes. Outside the US, one thing customers appear to want is sustainable beef. In the US, fresh beef has been more of the focus.
McDonald’s has been on a sustainability journey over the last several years, and are working to achieve specific goals by the year 2020. How are their choices impacting the beef industry in the US, Canada and Brazil?
Social Media Influences McDonald’s Changes
Erica Schaffer of Meat + Poultry spoke with McDonald’s former vice president of sustainability initiatives Bob Langert about his recent book about the company’s sustainability journey. In the interview, Langert provides “hard knock nuggets” of advice for other businesses that want to incorporate sustainable initiatives but also successfully manage social media.
Langert believes that social media is the biggest driver in the current movement for more corporate sustainability. It has made everything more transparent, consumers as a whole are more informed, and social movements can be started by a single person at the click of a button.
Fresh Beef in the US McDonald’s Restaurants
In the US right now, there’s a little bit of a meat revolution happening. As “fake” or cultured meat becomes more widely available and popular, many are wondering what this could mean for US beef producers.
Late last month McDonald’s reported that their sales were up 30% since the company made the announcement that they were switching from frozen to fresh beef in their Quarter Pounder sandwiches. It’s evidence that Americans still want to eat beef, even though “fake meat” is growing in popularity. This is a change that’s been two years in the making. Kelly Tyko of USA Today reported the story.
McDonald’s says the new Quarter Pounder andwiches are hotter and juicer than the company’s other burgers. Customers are loving it, says Marion Gross, McDonald’s senior vice president of supply chain management.
“Our customers tell us they have an interest in understanding where it comes from, what goes into it and how is it prepared,” Gross said. “We’re trying to be more transparent and make some necessary changes to delight our customers as we embark on our journey to be a better McDonald’s.”
“We’re committed to offering a variety of menu choices for our customers and, importantly, we’re going to listen to what our customers want from us,” Gross said.
US beef producers are taking this as a positive sign, that even through “fake meat” is growing in popularity, consumers still want to eat beef.
Sustainable Beef in Brazil
Meanwhile, in Brazil, the beef industry is turning more toward sustainable beef. Erica Schaffer of Meat + Poultry reports that Arcos Dorados, McDonals’s largest independent franchisee, recently announced that they plan on purchasing larger percentages of sustainably produced beef. The company is the world’s largest franchisee in terms of sales and number of restaurants. They have more than 90,000 employees.
Beef that is sustainably produced follows certain guidelines determined by the country of Brazil as well as international best practices. International guidelines include zero deforestation plans, not producing cattle in indigenous or protected lands, not using child or slave labor, and the allowance of regular audits by neutral entities.
Arcos Dorados wants to use their size and scale to have positive impacts on the lives of people and the environment. Their goal is to increase the consumption of sustainable beef while continuing to have a positive effect on markets.
Sustainable Beef in Canadian McDonald’s Restaurants
Sustainable beef is also big in Canada. Amanda Stephenson of Canada’s Calgary Herald says the decision by McDonald’s to use ‘certified sustainable’ beef is a win for the country’s beef industry. As a whole, the industry has been facing increased pressure from consumers for more environmental protections and animal welfare. The change is the result of years of work and coordination between the beef industry, McDonald’s, Cargill, food service companies and environmental groups. Over the next year more than 20 million burgers will be sources from beef produced by the new standards.
The standards don’t prohibit the use of antibiotics or growth hormones, but do provide guidance for grazing practice, watershed protection and animal care. There are 40 indicators with which producers must comply. It’s definitely an added cost for producers, but something consumers are demanding with greater frequency.
McDonald’s restaurants in Brazil and Canada appear to be moving toward sustainable beef, and in the US the focus has been more on “fresh.” Social media has been a big driver in influencing these changes.