December 04, 2023

McDonald’s sees value from pork industry partnerships

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, is not only a large end user of pork, but also a net exporter of “The Other White Meat.”

The Illinois-based company has found great value in partnering with the pork industry to ensure it sources high-quality products in a sustainable system.

Jeff Edwards, manager of U.S. quality systems for McDonald’s USA, discussed its work with farmers and the value of pork at the Illinois Pork Producers Association’s annual meeting in Springfield. The event kicked off the Illinois Pork Expo.

“We’re committed to delivering safe, high-quality products,” Edwards said. “How do we do that? We get involved in every step,” from the farm to the restaurant.

“We strive to partner with (farmers) as much as possible,” he noted. “We understand ag is a good ally.”

McDonald’s sourced more than 200 million pounds of pork in the United States annually as of 2021, with about 10% of that coming from Illinois, the nation’s fourth-largest pork producer.

Globally, McDonald’s consumes about 440 million pounds of pork and serves a wide variety of pork products in an estimated 75 countries. It sources more than 70% of all pork used in the restaurant chain from the United States.

“We’ve seen growth in the pork category internationally the last five years, especially with strip bacon. It’s become very popular in Europe,” Edwards said.

But, while pork products continue to sell like hotcakes, McDonald’s responded to consumers and pressure from non-government organizations to phase out the use of gestation stalls from farms where it sources pork.

So, back in 2012, McDonald’s announced plans to purchase pork from farms that phase out the use of gestation stalls by 2022.

But, because of animal disease pressure and the COVID pandemic, McDonald’s extended the deadline to 2024, with a goal to purchase 85% to 90% of pork from those farms as of last year.

While the move represented a major challenge to the industry, McDonald’s partnered with pork producers and is on track to meet the goal. It purchased more than 90% of its pork from farms that phased out gestation stalls last year.

“We did meet the goal for 2022,” Edwards said. “Continued engagement with producers was the difference maker.”

McDonald’s began sending employees and executives on tours of hog farms to better understand the industry and also implemented animal health and welfare training.

“McDonald’s values partnerships. It’s engrained in our business model since 1955,” Edwards said. “Consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Engagement allows us to have better, more meaningful conversations.”

This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association.