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Can McDonalds Make History -- and Rescue Its Brand -- with Sustainable Food?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Breaking The Chains page and our CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

McDonald's Golden Arches are tarnished these days. Its brand has been damaged by a food safety scandal in China and labor issues in America. Its stock price of late has severely lagged the S & P 500 performance, a result of poor sales growth.

To restore the shine to those arches, it's time for the fast-food behemoth to chart a new course: one that acknowledges the growing consumer demand for good food, grown as close to home as possible, by sustainable, humane, and fair producers.

The seeds of this transformation may have already been planted. McDonald's has been moving steadily towards sustainable sourcing of its ingredients. The company already purchases all of its seafood from green suppliers, and it has set goals to buy all of its coffee, palm oil, and fiber-based packaging from certified sustainable sources as well. They offer veggie burgers and organic milk in some markets, and plan to add more fruit and vegetable options in the U.S.



Industry analysts state that McDonald's is making these moves in response to competitive pressure from other restaurant chains that "get it." Chipotle, the fast-growing fast-casual Mexican chain, is now the darling of Wall Street. Chipotle's aggressive marketing focuses on how its "food with integrity" is superior to competitors' ingredients that come from industrial sources.

Panera, too, has been making major moves to clean up its sourcing and build transparency into its offerings. Then there is Chick-fil-A, a rapidly growing fast-food chicken chain whose image is not exactly that of a bastion of liberal thinking. When Chick-fil-A was lauded for its decision to source antibiotic-free chicken, it was another clarion call for McDonald's CEO Don Thompson to move on this issue.     

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