Sustainable MacFries Fund: McDonald’s to invest in climate-friendly farming practices

McDonald's has launched a "Sustainable MacFries Fund" in partnership with McCain to improve the resilience of British potato farmers, while also collaborating with the Walmart Foundation, WWF and Cargill in the US to improve land use practices.

Sustainable MacFries Fund: McDonald’s to invest in climate-friendly farming practices

Funding from the grant will also enable the farmers to conduct their own research into soil and water usage

The Sustainable MacFries Fund has been set up in partnership with McDonald’s supplier McCain. It aims to support British potato farmers to use new techniques and technology that will improve soil quality and water management. A separate partnership between McDonald’s and the Prince’s Countryside Fund will also help farmers make decisions about their future.

McDonald’s and McCain will provide £1m in grants to growers. Farmers will be educated and trained in improving soil structure while using new infiltration tines for MacFry planters. The technology will increase the uptake of water in both the soil and roots.

Irrigation technology and advanced crop monitoring will also improve water management, while McDonald’s and McCain will look to fund new research to help understand the benefits of using cover crops to retain soil quality.

Funding from the grant will also enable the farmers to conduct their own research into soil and water usage.

The way in which land is used in the UK accounted for 12% of national emissions in 2017, meaning that agri-food systems will need to be rapidly changed to ensure that the Government’s legally binding net-zero target is met.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has outlined how emissions from land-use can be reduced by almost two-thirds (64%) by 2050, and the residual emissions accounted for through offsetting.

The CCC believes that five key measures, all deadlines at 2050, could deliver this reduction: increasing UK forestry cover from 13% to at least 17%. This would require 30,000 hectares of planting annually, incentivising low-carbon farming practices, restoring at least 50% of the UK’s upland peat and 25% of its lowland peat by 2050, so it may sequester – not emit – carbon, planting bioenergy crops equivalent to 23,000 hectares per year, while avoiding the dangers of biodiversity loss attributed to monoculture farming, reducing the UK’s food waste mountain, which currently stands at 13.6 million tonnes annually, by 20%, and reducing red meat and dairy consumption per capita by 20%.

McDonald’s head of sustainable and ethical sourcing, Nina Prichard said: “We have a long heritage in supporting farmers as part of our ongoing commitment to continuously improving our supply chain. We couldn’t serve the food we’re famous for without the support and hard work of over 23,000 British and Irish farmers who supply us.

“It’s for that reason that we’re committed to working in partnership with the British and Irish farming industry. These two new initiatives are an essential next step in that mission, helping both our suppliers and the industry look to tomorrow. The Sustainable MacFries Fund in partnership with McCain will provide much-needed funding to boost the resilience and sustainability of British potato growers, while the Ready for Change workshops will help livestock farmers face a fast-changing future.”

US farming

Further afield, McDonald’s is also partnering with the Walmart Foundation and Cargill to invest $6m to improve grasslands of the Northern Great Plains in the US.

The Ranch Systems and Viability Planning (RSVP) network will be led by WWF and will support ranchers in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota to improve grazing practices that improve the health of the land.

The partnership will aim to improve land management across one million acres over the next five years in an effort to improve carbon storage and sequestration, increase water infiltration and better outcomes for biodiversity.

“Collaborative efforts like this can accelerate innovative, sustainable solutions and support ranchers in the beef supply chain,” Walmart’s chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin said.

“Sustainable grazing practices that improve soil health, absorb carbon and reduce water consumption can help to protect the land and people who depend on it.”

Matt Mace

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