… I sit on McDonald’s US Sustainability Team and work on some of our global projects focusing on proteins, sustainability, animal health and welfare, antibiotic policies, GHG reduction strategies. Beef sustainability is one in that we are doing a lot of work around accelerating industry progress…
What’s the role of technology in animal welfare? We ask McDonald’s Banks Baker.
By AgFunderNews (AFN)
via Successful Farming/Agriculture.com - 2/6/2020
W. Banks Baker, manager of animal welfare at McDonald’s, didn’t always live in a big city like Chicago where he is now based. His background involves spending several years on farms in various capacities.
“I ended up working on the farm at my college for a number of years and fell in love with agriculture,” Baker says. “After that, I got an interesting internship managing a ranch at the Rocky Mountain Institute. Then, I ended up managing a pasture-based, stacked enterprise system with a small grass-fed dairy, some beef, a lot of pastured poultry, Berkshire pigs, and hair sheep. I started seeing some incredible improvements to the land as I managed it a little differently. I realized there wasn’t enough quantification about some of the changes and systems.”
Baker headed to Colorado State to earn his masters in agriculture to address this shortcoming before learning about the opportunity to work at McDonald’s. Although this farm boy-turned-city slicker admits he misses the farm, he’s been in his corporate role for nearly three years.
We caught up with Baker ahead of his speaking role at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in San Francisco on March 16 to learn more about how McDonald’s thinks about animal welfare in its supply chain.
AFN: What are the biggest sustainability challenges McDonald’s faces in animal welfare and supply chain sustainability?
BB: I think everyone knows McDonald’s is the world’s largest global restaurant company. With that, we’ve made some ambitious commitments around sourcing goals and sustainability and welfare. What’s interesting here is that we are doing all of that, but we don’t own any farms or ranches; we don’t raise animals to source products that meet our specifications. It means we have to work with and across the industry to make those changes.
When we do that, it also means that when we commit to something, our impacts are very significant because of our footprint and when we make progress, we have to do it at a large enough scale to satisfy our volumes. Cage-free eggs have made progress. We have seen other companies make similar commitments and see that reverberating through the retail sector.
We like to think we have the best suppliers in the entire world, and we have one of the best supply chains in the entire world. We have very good relationships with suppliers.
AFN: What initiatives has McDonald’s put in place to try to overcome the challenges you face in animal welfare?
BB: I sit on McDonald’s US Sustainability Team and work on some of our global projects focusing on proteins, sustainability, animal health and welfare, antibiotic policies, GHG reduction strategies. Beef sustainability is one in that we are doing a lot of work around accelerating industry progress through the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and supporting programs around sharing knowledge of tools. Grazing management trainings and supporting soil health trainings for the farmer, which end up laddering up to McDonald’s GHG reduction commitments. In our Flagship Farmer Program, we identified our top 10 beef markets. Our flagship farmers are folks who are exemplary in the production systems they are in and provide an example to colleagues and counterparts. There is also the SMART Broiler Research Initiative.
We are doing things around pioneering new practices. We provided over $4 million worth of funding for an adaptive multi-paddock grazing study at Arizona State University asking whether we can use this method at the cow-calf level and if so, how much carbon can be sequestered. We will continue to support grazing management trainings that allow that information to be disseminated more broadly.
AFN: Where and how does technology play a role in overcoming these challenges? ...
AFN: What types of technology have caught your eye so far? ...
AFN: The majority of broilers are raised by contract growers who work with an integrator that owns the birds, the feed, the pharmaceuticals, and other inputs. Who ultimately pays for the technology that you will recommend in your supply chain? ...
AFN: What do you think the future is for meat vs. plant-based vs. other alternatives like cultivated meat? Why has McDonald’s been slow to uptake alternative protein compared with other QSRs? ...
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