A jogging-suit-clad Ronald McDonald plastered on packaging hints
at the benefits of healthy eating, a rack of pamphlets entitled
‘Taste, Choice and Balanced Eating’ are on hand, and new items like
carrot sticks, salads, and fruit bags are found on the menu. It’s
probably not the McDonald’s you remember hearing about in exposes
like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me.
Maneuvering to avoid becoming the next Philip Morris of consumer
health lawsuits, McDonald’s is attempting to market itself as
health conscious and has added a slew of healthy sounding additions
to their menu, including Apple Dippers — about 10 sliced and
peeled apples with a calorie-boosting package of caramel sauce.
With the venture, McDonald’s has become the largest purchaser of
apples of any US restaurant chain and now wields enormous power
over the industry. At an apple marketing conference last year,
McDonald’s told growers that if they wanted to do business with the
company they should start growing cameo and pink lady apples.
Washington state, the largest apple-producing region in the US,
answered the call by increasing its cameo crop by 58 percent from
last year. If sales of Apple Dippers stay steady, McDonald’s demand
for uniformity and volume has the potential to decrease
biodiversity in the region.
This change won’t come overnight. The time-intensive nature of
the apple growing business, along with the fickle tendencies of
cameos and their susceptibility to disease, ensures that only the
richest will be able to dish out the substantial up-front
investment and wait years to see profits. And that means the
diversity of apple farms could take a hit as well.
McDonald’s role in the apple market will probably be similar to
how it impacted potatoes and beef, according to Erik Nicholson, the
regional director of the United Farm Workers Union.
‘Unless you’re a grower that’s tied to a supplier, you’re not
going to get the business,’ Nicholson told The Guardian.
‘There is an inevitable increase in size. Before you know it, the
packers have also become growers. They are more powerful than the
state and the federal government in terms of setting standards. So
small growers either grow themselves, or disappear.’
— Grace Hanson
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McDonald’s Grabs a Piece of the Apple Pie
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