The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Strategic CSR - McDonald's

You will need a strong stomach to get through this Newsletter.

First, have a look at this excerpt from the UK chef, Jamie Oliver's TV show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wshlnRWnf30

Next, have a look at this photo:


This substance, which is appetizingly referred to as "mechanically separated poultry," is chicken scraps that have gone through the same process that Oliver demonstrates using beef. That is, the scraps have been treated with ammonia in order to kill the bacteria (e.g., e-coli) that made them unfit for human consumption. The resulting product, which looks like a cross between strawberry ice-cream and a pink snake, is used by food companies as filler in mass-produced meat products. By reducing the quantity of real meat as an ingredient, firms are able to manufacture their products more efficiently (i.e., reduce costs). This filler, for example, is one of the main ingredients in chicken nuggets.

The article in the url below reveals that McDonald's has recently stopped using this substance in its foods:

"McDonald's confirmed that it has eliminated the use of ammonium hydroxide — an ingredient in fertilizers, household cleaners and some roll-your-own explosives —  in its hamburger meat."

Reassuringly:

"In a statement, McDonald's clarified that it stopped using "select lean beef trimmings" — its preferred term for scrap meat soaked in ammonium hydroxide and ground into a pink meatlike paste — at the beginning of last year. "This product has been out of our supply chain since August of last year," it said."

This means that, until August 2011, these "select lean beef trimmings" were being used in all McDonald's 'beef' products. There is no mention in the statement of whether it is still being used in its 'chicken' products. According to Oliver, it is legal for firms to substitute this stuff for up to 15% of the total 'meat' ingredients in foods without having to report it anywhere on the nutrition label. The Department of Agriculture, in all its wisdom, has decided that this filler is a process (rather than an ingredient), which is why firms do not have to report it to consumers. Also according to Oliver, this process is being used in "at least 70% of ground beef products. That kind of puts it everywhere." All of this enables firms like McDonald's to use this filler in its foods, while still claiming that:

"… the fact is, McDonald's USA serves 100% USDA-inspected beef- no preservatives, no fillers, no extenders- period."

Of course, McDonald's, as always, is only being guided by its customers' best interests:

"Todd Bacon, McDonald's senior supply chain officer, told the Daily Mail that the decision "was not related to any particular event, but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards.""