We count on our suppliers to bring us quality ingredients and products, so that we can serve delicious meals every time a customer visits a McDonald’s restaurant, anywhere in the world. That’s why our continued success depends on the success, resilience and sustainability of the many businesses across our supply chain.
At the heart of our supply chain are the farmers, ranchers, growers and producers who grow our ingredients, and we want every one of them to thrive – from large agricultural businesses to smallholders and family farms. We believe the key to this is to drive positive social, economic and environmental benefits for everyone. This is even more urgent today because farming communities have been facing significant pressure – from environmental challenges to the recent economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strength and agility of our supply chain is grounded in our strong collaborations and partnerships. We work closely with our suppliers to support economically viable farming and to help improve access to knowledge, tools and best practice farming methods that lead to positive social, economic and environmental benefits. Some of our key strategies are outlined below.
Recognizing Leading Farmers
By helping to enable peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, we want to positively impact farmers’ ability to increase their efficiency, productivity and profitability while preserving the planet over the long term. This is why we’ve launched programs such as McDonald’s Flagship Farmers program to recognize leading farmers and encourage knowledge sharing across the farming community.
Our Flagship Farmers program harnesses the knowledge and experiences of forward-thinking farmers, ranchers, producers and growers who are passionate about agricultural sustainability and sharing the best practices they use to supply our ingredients. By inspiring, engaging and collaborating with other farmers, individual producers can help drive positive change. Applying field-proven best practices is one way in which we believe farmers can address critical challenges, make positive contributions to nature and ensure long-term viability.
Recently, the program completed its near-term objective of identifying beef Flagship Farmers in 10 of McDonald’s leading beef-sourcing countries. That means that since its launch in 2007, Flagship Farmers has recognized 34 farmers in 17 countries across four continents, including farmers such as Texas beef producers Gary and Sue Price.
Investing in Farming Communities
Rising global demand for food and drinks, such as coffee, combined with more erratic weather patterns relating to a changing climate and labor shortages, is adding to the pressure on the world’s growing communities. Through partnerships with our suppliers and expert groups, we are investing in programs that support farmers and their livelihoods.
When it comes to coffee, McDonald’s launched the McCafé Sustainability Improvement Platform (McCafé SIP) in partnership with Conservation International and our coffee roasters. McCafé SIP is a framework to engage and guide our coffee supply chain in sustainable sourcing, as well as invest in coffee growers and their communities over the long term.
McCafé SIP is currently active in five countries across South and Central America, reaching nearly 6,000 farms as of 2019. McDonald’s and our Franchisees partner with roasters to invest in programs that provide, for example, direct premiums to farmers to support economic viability, as well as farmer training, technical assistance, tools and resources, and measurement and evaluation. Together, we can help them better care for the land, increase their overall productivity and improve the quality of the coffee they produce.
We have also created an Advisory Council to provide input on the strategic direction of McCafé SIP. The Advisory Council members include Conservation International, the Rainforest Alliance, Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), Solidaridad, Sustainable Food Lab and Fair Trade USA. In partnership with Conservation International and with input from the Advisory Council, we developed and introduced a set of minimum requirements that all farms must meet and that will be assessed through third-party audits. These requirements are focused on social and environmental impacts such as human rights, health and safety, and deforestation.
In partnership with COSA, we have also expanded performance metrics that measure continuous improvement toward social, environmental and economic standards annually. Through analysis of these metrics, our roasters can better target investments in programs that support income diversification or food security and help to build the resilience of these communities.
Accelerating Sustainable and Regenerative Farming
As we continue to listen and learn from the farming community, we’re focused on finding ways to work together to scale climate solutions across the supply chain. This includes partnering with suppliers, expert NGOs and other organizations on farmer and rancher-led programs to help scale up sustainable and regenerative farming; this not only helps to mitigate climate change, but supports farming communities to be more resilient and economically viable for the long term.
For example, in the Northern Great Plains, we’re working with World Wildlife Fund, Cargill and the Walmart Foundation to improve regenerative grazing practices across one million acres of land. Meanwhile, in Nebraska, we’ve teamed up with Target, Cargill and The Nature Conservancy to invest in regenerative soil health practices. These projects work directly with local farmers and ranchers, providing important peer-to-peer learning networks, as well as technical expertise, training and tools to implement practices. Through these programs we can help to reduce emissions, mitigate climate change and support livelihoods, which also support achieving our science-based target to significantly reduce emissions across our supply chain, restaurants and offices by 2030.
Find out more about Sustainable Agriculture & Beef.
As a business of our size and scale, our ability to be agile rests on a diverse supply chain made up of local farmers, multinational agriculture companies and everything in between. In markets around the world, we work closely with local farmers and producers to source ingredients for some of our most iconic menu items. For example, in Romania, our Egg McMuffin is made with eggs sourced in Romania. Cheeseburgers in Brazil use beef, produce, cheese, buns and even ketchup supplied exclusively by Brazilian producers. In nearby Argentina, the buns and lettuce in the McPollo® sandwich come from Argentinian producers.
In the UK and Ireland, we have a long-standing track record of using ingredients from local farming communities. We are proud to partner with 23,000 local farmers to source ingredients like the beef for our iconic hamburgers, the eggs for our Egg McMuffins and the potatoes for our delicious French fries.
Supporting the Sustainable Development Goals
Our work on farmer livelihoods supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals – a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:
Celebrating Farmers Who Are Leaders in Their Communities
We are proud to elevate exceptional producers who can encourage wider adoption of sustainable practices but who are also leaders in their communities. Flagship Farmer Stephen Hughes, a beef producer from western Canada, is a good example of this. Stephen is committed to working with nature rather than against it. Bringing together a community of people who share his desire to raise cattle in a more environmentally conscious way, he is helping to leave the land better than when he started.
Stephen is also committed to supporting his community and believes future generations should see sustainability as normal practice, which is why he is actively engaged with 4-H, a nonprofit youth organization that works with young people to develop life skills and leadership. As a 4-H Beef Club leader, Stephen works to promote sustainability through workshops and debates. By promoting this type of engagement, Stephen is teaching young people about the importance of being an active contributor to their community.
Empowering Coffee Farmers in South America
Through McCafé SIP, we’re enabling coffee roasters to leverage their expertise and relationships at origin to innovate and advance sustainable farming practices. For example, in 2019 over 2,000 farmers in Antioquia state in Colombia took part in fertilizer management training and storage training, which has in part contributed to farms seeing a substantial increase in water quality. As of 2019, 50% of farmers surveyed as part of one supplier-led program were implementing all water contamination prevention practices, up from 22% in 2018.
In the same year, a further 1,600 individuals from over 650 farms in Valle de Cauca, Colombia, received training on record keeping, environmental stewardship and quality assurance. This took place as part of a course to help them become coffee quality technicians, ensuring production of high-quality coffee beans. Of the participants, 40% identified as youth, an underemployed population, and truly the next generation of coffee stewards.
One coffee grower who has been positively impacted by McCafé SIP is Tatiana Machado, based in Urrao, a town in Colombia’s Antioquia region. When Tatiana started the coffee business with her husband, she knew little about farm management. Through McCafé SIP, she has been able to attend trainings and receive technical assistance on a wide range of topics, such as caring for coffee seedlings and learning best practices for the bean fermentation process. All the knowledge and expertise gained has helped Tatiana improve the quality of her coffee, and she is now helping to replicate the same practices on nearby farms to uplift everyone in the community.
Supporting McDonald’s Move to Cage-Free Eggs in the U.S.
In 2015, McDonald’s USA announced that it was committing to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs by 2025. This target posed a big challenge to our egg suppliers, many of whom were not set up to meet this new demand. That’s why we are supporting our farmers as they migrate to new farming systems and processes by providing the resources and aid they need to make large operational shifts. By collaborating with our farmers in this way, we are able to achieve our own targets while supporting farmers as they move to more sustainable and profitable operations.
As we’ve moved forward in this journey, we’re proud to farm in a way that’s good for the birds, that makes our staff proud of the work they do, and results in a product consumers love. We’re really proud to be a supplier for McDonald’s and we hope to continue our family tradition for generations to come.
Peter Forsman, Farmer, Forsman Farms