McDonald’s, the food system, and consumer power


If you walk into any McDonald’s, it is almost a guarantee that the food will be consistent. A cheeseburger from McDonald’s tastes the same in Wisconsin as it does in Texas. This might not seem like a big deal, but there’s a lot that goes into ensuring that every customer has the same food and taste experience.

On average, McDonald’s has around 62,000,000 daily customers. Those customers consume 75 hamburgers every second. Consumers also eat one billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s every year, that’s 500,000 head of cattle. With so much global consumption, how does McDonald’s ensure its food is consistent?

McDonald’s has around 62,000,000 daily customers. Those customers consume 75 hamburgers every second.

Take French fries for example. McDonald’s has iconic fries and if you’ve ever been to McDonald’s chances are you’ve had them. Keeping fries consistent for billions of customers requires consistent potatoes. Initially, McDonald’s found that purchasing potatoes from multiple farms wasn’t consistent and there weren’t any local farms who could keep up with such a large and growing demand.


To purchase enough uniform potatoes, McDonald’s began working with the JR Simplot company. Simplot is an agribusiness empire that focuses on seed production, farming, fertilizer manufacturing, frozen-food processing, and food brands and distribution. The company made its mark when it released the first commercially-viable frozen French fries in the 1940s. Simplot continues to focus on technological advancements and improving sustainability practices.

A Russet potato field. (

When McDonald’s started purchasing potatoes from Simplot, the seed company had a massive influence on agriculture and the industry. Because of their scope they could utilize larger potato farms to deliver uniform potatoes and fries. This drastically changed the potato industry and soon many farms were producing potatoes similar or equivalent to the potatoes McDonald’s uses. As a consumer, you experience this every time you buy a potato. At the grocery store or in a restaurant, there is a good chance your potato is the kind McDonald’s uses.

Relating it all back to marketing and consumers, McDonald’s influence on the food and agriculture industry is evident. In recent years, fast food chains and restaurants have been under pressure to improve environmental practices. Some of McDonald’s more recent advertising campaigns have been focused on the farmer in order to build consumer trust.

An example of a McDonald’s ad that focuses on the farmer. (

The idea of “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) is “a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.” McDonalds has made strides in supporting sustainable production. Because of these marketing and consumer influences and McDonald’s large influence on the agriculture industry and its practices, the company can stimulate positive change in food production.

An increasing number of people want to know more about the food supply chain. Consumers want to trust where their food comes from and this is also possible through transparency in production. MorganMyers, a premiere agriculture and food chain communication firm, worked with McDonald’s to build trust through a campaign that allowed mothers to see what was behind the scenes. Read more about the campaign here. 

Other advertisements from the same Canadian campaign. (

For example, if market research demonstrates that McDonald’s consumers desire more sustainable beef, McDonald’s can use its influence to change the beef industry’s practices. Agricultural companies such as Simplot have made incredible strides to place a priority on innovative technologies that manage resources better and reduce environmental impact.

Getting a McDonald’s French fry to taste like it’s from McDonald’s takes a lot more than a secret recipe. It takes a whole food system. This influence can benefit the environment as consumers continue to demand more responsible foods.



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