A Meaningful Makeover for McDonald’s?

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As Sasha Stashwick, a senior advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) food and agriculture program highlights, “despite antibiotic resistant bacteria, which develops in concentrated animal feeding operations—costing the U.S. health care system $20 billion a year—the FDA has only responded with voluntary regulations.” Increasingly, it would seem that big retailers will have succeeded where the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) have not.

As recently as four days ago and joined by Costco, McDonald’s announced new menu sourcing initiatives including only sourcing chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine. Significant because the combined purchasing power of both giants equates to about 180 million chickens p/year. Further, they also announced this week a newly formed U.S. Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (of which they’re a founding member alongside Cargill, Tyson Foods and Walmart), part of a global initiative to monitor and verify sources for sustainable beef. And in yet another statement, they’ve refused to use a newly developed GMO potato for their fries, which although there is no evidence to suggest is harmful, they fear backlash and confusing consumers in an already murky debate. But it doesn’t stop there… aimed at taking back their story and allowing for greater engagement and openness with customers, McDonald’s created “Our Food, Your Questions“, which invites customers to ask any question they want about the food.

Often demonized over many years for their less than stellar food and supply chain reputation, Mike Donahue, the former communications chief of McDonald’s, has said the company had allowed itself to be defined by others. “Instead of telling consumers that they sell more chicken than beef and are the No. 1 seller of apples, for instance, they’ve allowed the fringe groups and so-called influencers to define McDonald’s as the company that’s made America fat,” he said. A challenge we would argue is facing many large retailers, not just McDonald’s; but the reason they’re able to start authentically redefining their story is because they’re activating around the things that matter.

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