CALGARY (CityNews) – When you’re craving fast food or grabbing something on the fly, food sustainability isn’t always top of mind.
McDonald’s Canada is trying to take a bite out of a common misconception that its burgers aren’t ethically or locally sourced, instead inviting you to learn how the food made it to your table.
“I feel very responsible to represent my industry very well. I know I am representing a lot of people who do a great job and care about the animals and the land we work with,” said Longview farmer Stephen Hughes.
Hughes has been a farmer his entire life and recently partnered with the fast-food heavyweight as its first-ever Canadian flagship farmer.
The program is aimed at recognizing sustainable practices in agriculture and beef production.
“I know I’m ranching but I like to talk about how I’m conserving habitat, sequestering carbon and we’re converting fibre and roughage into a very nutrient-dense protein product at the same time,” said Hughes.
With global pressure to make practices environmentally friendly increasing, the consumer-driven beef industry has come under fire.
McDonald’s has tried to remedy its hand in the growing concern by sourcing ethically raised beef.
“We’ve gone in the direction in the last 20 years of a year-round grazing program and the mindset the bison would’ve wintered here,” said Hughes. “I think it’s a very sustainable system of year-round grazing on native grassland ecosystems. It’s really a beautiful thing when you get to understand it.”
Hughes adds it’s good to have conversations between the farming community and consumers.
“There are lots of reports about negative pieces of our industry. I think it’s time we talk about what we do well and I’m pretty proud and transparent about that. I don’t mind sticking my neck out, this has to be a part of our routine any way you can engage whether it’s bringing a tour of kids out, speaking to kids, getting vets out here.”
McDonald’s Flagship Farmer Program has engaged farmers and ranchers in Europe for several years. The program s current focus is on identifying Flagship Farmer beef producers in each of the top 10 countries from which McDonald’s sources its beef, including Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.