The UK is home to a world-class agrifood sector, generating hundreds of billions in value, sustaining millions of jobs and providing much of the food that we consume every day.
But with food shortages hitting supermarkets, an ongoing climate crisis impacting food production worldwide, and farmers facing unprecedented challenges, it’s clear we need to rethink and reshape how we produce and source our food.
Businesses like McDonald’s are at the forefront of providing quality food, and they continue to work hard to support farmers to innovate and make their farming practices more sustainable, from helping improve productivity and efficiency to innovating throughout the supply chain to reduce the impact on the planet.
A key area that continues evolving is beef production, with the National Food Strategy calling for evidence on challenges associated with reducing methane emissions from livestock – the aim being to help industry embrace ‘climate-smart farming’ and innovative technologies.
McDonald’s serves more than four million customers every day, but it couldn’t do this without 20,000 beef farmers who supply 100 per cent British and Irish beef for its burger patties, and who are each approved by a nationally recognised farm-assurance scheme.
One of these farmers is Greg Pickstock. With more than 60 years’ experience in the beef industry across three generations, Greg and his family own and operate Brongain Farm in Wales. Together with McDonald’s, they launched The Net Zero Beef Pathway Project in 2020, which aims to achieve net zero emissions on Brongain Farm by 2030. Since it began, McDonald’s and Brongain Farm have worked together to trial exciting innovations that are supporting animal breeding, nutrition and biodiversity, which all help to reduce carbon emissions.
So far, the farm has already reduced its carbon emissions by 31 per cent in two years, showing real progress. ‘The project started with rotational grazing, which enables the grass to regrow, along with other flowers and plants,’ says Greg. ‘This provides quality pasture for cattle to graze on – while also helping to sequester carbon. We know we’ve still got some way to go, but we’re really pleased with the results so far.’
In line with the vision set out in the new Food Strategy, McDonald’s is looking to drive positive change across its supply chain – including leading research into pioneering techniques that improve how ingredients are farmed. One way is through FAI Farms, of which it is a founding partner. FAI undertakes research to advance sustainable farming and animal welfare, working with farmers to bring this research to life and share best practice across the industry.
Its most recent project, launched in February 2021, aims to better understand the benefits of farming regeneratively using adaptive multi-paddock grazing for beef cattle. The impact of this research has been positively recognised by Compassion in World Farming, and McDonald’s will look to expand the research to a network of beef farmers, supporting them to adopt these practices and measure the benefits.
‘We’ve been working with McDonald’s for 20 years on agricultural research projects,’ says Karl Williams, director of FAI Farms. ‘Much of this has focused on regenerative agriculture, with successful projects rolled out across the McDonald’s supply chain, which can positively impact the wider industry.
‘At a time when consumers want quality produce, sourced from the UK, it’s vital we address the challenges facing our food system, so that farmers can continue to deliver produce for future generations.’