McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast-food restaurant chain. The enamored restaurant chain feeds 68 million people every day and makes 75 million US dollars each day. This corporate giant alone has one of the largest cultural, political, economic, and environmental impacts of any company in history. Their influence is one of the strongest in many aspects and life and can change lifestyles globally. However, their track record is far from unsoiled.
As one of the world’s largest purchasers of beef, McDonalds uses over 350,000 cattle a year. Its menus are rooted in the suffering and slaughter of millions of animals. The majority of them are intensively farmed, with little access to fresh air or sunlight, as well as little freedom of movement in tight quarters. Needless to say, the quality of life for these animals is atrocious. Along with this, the raising of such farms is labor-intensive and is environmentally costly. A problem that is surprisingly an issue with cattle is the large amount of farts released by cows into the atmosphere. Farts produce methane, a chemical that is “80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere” (Methane: A Crucial Opportunity in the Climate Fight) is a major contributor to the global warming crisis. McDonald’s receives their meat from privatized farms. Within these privatized farms, their practices include many unethical ones because they are not held responsible for their accountability. These farms are major contributors to the deforestation of large jungles and forests that displace many forms of wildlife all for creating cattle farms. The destruction of rainforests is used to grow grain for the large livestock and poultry demand globally. Soybean farms, which are the cheapest way of feeding poultry, are also a contributor to mass deforestation and a major contributor to greenhouse gasses. This increasing demand only incentivizes them to continue to keep up with demand and increase their profits.
The good news is that Mcdonald’s is taking some sort of accountability. On their website, they have updated their plans for a more sustainable future. Among the many promises, important ones the company plans on fulfilling are:
- Packaging and waste
There is a lot of waste that is created from a single order. Just think of the wrapper, cup, lid, straw, napkin, bag, etc. it takes to serve one person. A lot of the packaging is unnecessary.
- Sustainable Agriculture & Beef
There is no real way of sustaining beef. McDonald’s must find new ways of serving food with different ingredients to move towards a greener future. A good way would be to implement plant-based options and their agriculture needs to be restructured to successfully serve their promise of eliminating deforestation.
- Water Stewardship
Too much water is sacrificed for the convenience of quickly watering plants.
“Where McDonald’s goes, usually the rest of the restaurant industry eventually follows,” said Sara Senatore, a senior research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., who focuses on the restaurant industry. “It’s hard for other companies not to follow suit eventually” (Washington Post, 2021) .
On their website, the plan overall is to move towards a much more “sustainable future” by 2030. On the surface, this seems like a good thing, but it is not enough. These promises should realistically be placed in effect immediately, but they are not. As a company, they are more worried about their image and that is the issue. A great benefit to McDonalds promise is that other large fast-food chains will see this and follow suit.It is how other companies get good press and remain competitive, so it is overall not the worst problem to have.
What you can do
There is no doubt that McDonalds number one priority is to line their pockets with as much money as possible, but by continuing to pressure them and making decisions on the individual level, people will be able to have a positive effect on the environment. McDonalds ,of course, is not alone in this problem and all of the restaurant industry should be held accountable. One of the best ways to combat this is to eat home-cooked meals. Besides all the great environmental impacts meals cooked at home can have, your health will also substantially improve.
“It takes seven kilocalories of energy to produce food, but processing, packaging, and transporting it takes another ten. In plain language, that means it takes more than double the amount of energy to process food than it does to grow it”(Forbes, 2012).
As a society, we should take strides to also improve our lifestyles. There is extensive research that has revealed the multitude of evidence that advocates for cooking at home. Why wouldn’t anyone want to increase their quality of life? Making meals at home allows you to acquire sustainable foods, waste less food, use less energy, and it also has a lower environmental effect. The best way to implement this lifestyle is to try incorporating a plant-based diet. McDonalds is just one of the many dynastic food chains that need to be held accountable for their actions, thus stay out of the McTrouble!
Siegel, Rachel. “McDonald’s Announces Major Environmental Goals for 2030, Sending a Signal to the Restaurant Industry.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 28 Mar. 2019, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/03/21/mcdonalds-announces-green-initiatives-for-2030-and-sends-a-signal-to-the-restaurant-industry/.
“If McDonald’s Is Serious about Reducing Its Carbon Footprint, It May Need to Rethink the Hamburger.” The Counter, 14 Jan. 2020, thecounter.org/mcdonalds-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-pledge-beef/.
What’s Wrong with McDonald’s?, http://www.mcspotlight.org/campaigns/translations/trans_uk.html.
“40 Interesting Facts about McDonald’s.” Serious Facts, 24 July 2020, http://www.seriousfacts.com/mcdonalds-facts/.
“Methane: A Crucial Opportunity in the Climate Fight.” Environmental Defense Fund, http://www.edf.org/climate/methane-crucial-opportunity-climate-fight.
Hoffman, Beth. “What’s So Great About Cooking? Four Reasons (and Resources) to DIY.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Aug. 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethhoffman/2012/06/18/whats-so-great-about-cooking-four-reasons-and-resources-to-diy/?sh=678d58a35756.