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McDonalds Steps Up Support for Farmers

by 5m Editor
27 March 2012, at 7:37am

UK - McDonald's is to launch a long-term programme to support British and Irish farming, it was announced last week. Developed in response to major challenges facing British and Irish agriculture, Farm Forward aims to help secure a sustainable future for British and Irish farming by supporting existing farmers and helping young farmers into the industry.

McDonald's strong and sustained sales growth in the UK means that it now spends more than £320 million per year on its UK supply chain compared to £269 million in 2009, and buys ingredients from over 17,500 British and Irish farmers. More than ever, McDonald's needs to ensure the long-term and continued supply of quality ingredients for its menu, which is served to 3 million customers each day.

With an initial first-year investment of £1 million, Farm Forward is built around five core commitments that span: quality of ingredients; animal welfare standards; creating work and training opportunities for young farmers; environmental and efficiency standards; and knowledge sharing. The programme has been created in collaboration with leading farmers and agricultural experts including the National Farm Research Unit, beef and lamb industry organisation EBLEX and the Food Animal Initiative.

It launches with three projects, each informed by a new study of 500 progressive farmers, commissioned by McDonald's. The projects are:

A pioneering training programme for young farmers, which will enable agricultural students from across the UK to complete a 12 month placement to gain experience through the whole spectrum of the agricultural supply chain, from farm to abattoir to restaurant.

Starting in July 2012, the 12-month placement has been created in partnership with leading agricultural colleges and some of McDonald’s biggest suppliers, including food manufacturer McCain and food production companies OSI Food Solutions and Tulip.

The training programme provides aspiring young farmers with the blend of farming and business skills needed to succeed in today’s farming sector. According to McDonald's research, two- thirds of respondents stated that improving the farming and business skills of themselves and their staff is imperative to keeping their farm enterprise successful in the future.

A free simple carbon calculator to help livestock farmers measure and understand how to change their working practices in order to drive greater efficiencies on their farms and improve environmental performance.

The calculator has been created by independent energy-auditing company E-CO2 following a two-year research study by E-CO2 and the Carbon Trust, which measured the carbon emissions of 350 beef farms across the UK and Ireland. In 2012, more than 200 farmers will trial the calculator before it is modified as needed, and made available to beef farmers across the UK and Ireland next year.

Funding new research and innovation to encourage improvements in animal welfare standards by providing evidence and practical guidance for farmers, such as the newly-published study by Dr Ashleigh Bright from FAI, which identifies the economic value for farmers of providing range enrichment for laying hens.

When farmers were asked how highly they rate a range of factors in keeping their enterprises successful, respondents rated animal welfare within the top three priorities for investment in their farm, alongside growing their business and improving the farm’s sustainability footprint.

Brian Mullens, Senior Vice President, Supply Chain, McDonald’s UK said: “We know the farming industry faces some challenging issues, and as a big customer of British and Irish farming, we want to do more to support the industry. Farm Forward is our commitment to help ensure the sustainable future of British and Irish farming, and make sure we can keep buying quality ingredients from British and Irish farmers to serve to our three million daily customers.

“Supporting the next generation of farmers is vital if we are to secure the future of farming in this country, and our new work programme for young farmers is designed to help them develop the blend of skills and experience that progressive, modern farmers want and need."