Okay, McDonald’s. It’s time we had a talk…
Just a few days ago, the American fast food company announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 36 percent and “prevent 150 million metric tons of emissions by 2030.” McDonald’s has also pledged to cut 31 percent, per metric ton, of their food and packaging. McDonald’s could easily cut their emissions simply by adding a vegan burger to all of their menus (which they are not even considering doing in the U.S., despite success in Europe) and now we are yet again faced with the fact that McDonald’s simply doesn’t understand the connection between food and climate change.
Days after announcing their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, McDonald’s now plans on INCREASING the amount of dairy used on their menu. Wait, hold on … what?!
As part of an industry-wide dairy checkoff program with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), McDonald’s has created three new items using dairy products (because that’s totally necessary). One item is the white cheddar slices that will be used on McDonald’s “Signature Crafted Recipes” sandwiches, as well as the Egg White Delight McMuffin that are “more than 30 percent larger than the pasteurized process version previously used,” Dairy Reporter shared. The McCafe menu will also be seeing a new addition of new McCafe Turtle Coffee Beverages in three milk-containing varieties. DMI notes that the McCafe menu offers dairy in 90 PERCENT of their menu. That’s right, while the rest of the world’s coffee shops are adding more plant-based varieties like almond milk, oat milk, and coconut milk … McDonald’s is just going deep into the option consumers don’t want.
But here’s the thing … McDonald’s cannot honestly say they are making any effort to reduce their environmental impact if they are adding more dairy to their already ridiculously dairy-heavy menu (seriously, even the salads come with cheese and milk-based dressing). That would be like Exxon saying they’re cutting emissions by making their fracking operations 30 percent larger…
Adding more cheese to their menus will mean their supply chains will need to use MORE water to hydrate cows, clean milking parlor floors, walls, and milking equipment. As is, the average dairy farm uses 150 gallons of water per cow, per DAY just for automatic flushing systems that keep feces off the ground. The dairy industry also contributes to four percent of total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention runoff from dairy farms has been linked to ocean dead zones and also public health disasters like Blue Baby Syndrome. Oh and those images of “happy” dairy cows that surely McDonald’s will exploit … well joke’s on only consumers because 99 percent of farmed animals in the United States are raised on factory farms – in fact, we rank the second worst in the WORLD for farmed animal welfare … that’s right, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela are doing a better job than we are currently.
There’s also the issue of, you know, no one wants dairy. Thanks to concerns over allergies, antibiotic use, and hormones associated with milk, one-third of consumers prefer dairy-free milk … and dairy consumption has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. Adding more cheese is simply a poor attempt to prop up a dying industry. To stay current, the dairy industry needs to be onboard with plant-based alternatives. Meat giants like Tyson and Cargill are making smart investments into the plant-based food industry – and there are a number of dairy processors that have acquired plant-based milk companies as well. California dairy farmers are switching to almond crops, and even a 92-year-old dairy plant that was forced to close due to a decline in sales recently reopened as a plant-based milk company. PLUS the global dairy alternatives market is predicted to be worth $19.5 billion by 2020, according to Markets and Markets. Follow the money, McDonald’s … not the sad, played-out dairy industry.
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To learn more about the environmental impact of our food choices and developments in the plant-based food space, check out the #EatForThePlanet book!
Image Source: Mike Mozart/Flickr