Reynard Loki is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio, he writes the blog 13.7 Billion Years and is a contributing author to "Biomes and Ecosystems," a comprehensive reference encyclopedia of the Earth's key biological and geographic classifications, published in 201...
McShocker: McDonald's to Phase Out Meat by 2030
An unnamed source close to McDonald's said that the world's largest hamburger fast food chain will begin to phase out meat from their menu with a goal to become completely meat-free by the year 2030, investing aggressively in the research and development of artificial meat products.
According to the source, the company has made this decision after a secret year-long internal study concluded that the global meat industry is not sustainable beyond the year 2050. This follows their recent announcement that they will source sustainable palm oil by 2015 and not source beef from the Amazon biome.
Clearly, McDonald's is ramping up its dedication to corporate social responsibility, and with this decision, is tackling several of world's most pressing and thorniest issues -- food security, climate change, animal welfare and public health.
MEAT-EATERS PUSH EARTH TO "SAFE THRESHOLD"
The McDonald's study concurs with an October 2010 report published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which projected that the global demand for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy could be responsible for 70 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reaching a level considered to be a safe threshold for the planet.
"Ultimately, McDonald's wants to be the world's largest purveyor of food that is delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, ethically-produced and most of all, sustainable," said food sustainability expert Robert Thorn. "They agree with the latest available science, which says that in the long run, the meat industry is simply not sustainable at the projected rate of human population growth. Either we continue to eat meat or continue to have lots of babies. We can't do both. And McDonald's realizes that there's no long-term profit in unsustainable industries."
Though McDonald's has for many years been a target of animal welfare groups like PETA for their role in an industry that has a proven record of animal abuse, the company has long been a businessworld darling, posting steady profits and solid growth.
MCDONALD'S MAKES FORTUNE'S TOP TEN MOST ADMIRED COMPANIES LIST
Earlier this month, McDonald's was voted the Number One company in the Food Service category of Fortune's "Most Admired Companies of 2011" list, a corporate reputation report card rated by executives, directors and analysts within their own industries. It ranked 10th in the overall list. But like any great innovator, McDonald's realizes that admiration today doesn't mean success tomorrow.
"McDonald's has reaffirmed its position as one of the world's most innovative companies in the arena of corporate social responsibility," said Wall Street analyst Bud Fox. "They are answering the question that author and humanitarian Jerry White recently posed at the recent Ashoka Globalizer Summit: How do you build the next generation of social leadership that is more servant-oriented than focused on being stars? McDonald's is acting like any great leader -- in the service of its stakeholders. And, if they remember that, as George Merck II famously said, "The profits follow."
"McDonald's has a huge impact on both public health and the environment," said Fox. "And as a respected member of the business community, they are in a unique position to make a significant difference in the future of the human race and the planet Earth. Their obvious desire to want to help make people healthy and not make them more susceptible to obesity-related diseases is commendable."
The relationship between meat and heart disease is well-documented. An international 1999 study published in the journal American Society for Clinical Nutrition showed that mortality from ischemic heart disease was 24% lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians.
UNITED NATIONS: "EAT LESS MEAT"
A 2010 United Nations study estimated that agriculture -- specifically meat and dairy production -- accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 14% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and almost 40% of the Earth's total land area usage. The report states, "A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."
"It's a cunning move," said food industry analyst Dr. Takeru Kobayashi about McDonald's meat phase-out plan. "They clearly recognize the growth of vegetarianism and veganism in light of all the studies regarding the negative effects of meat and animal products on human health -- and the negative effect of the meat industry on the environment and obviously, on animal welfare. Plus, let's face it, it's a practical business decision. They need to compete with Subway, and they are doing it on a grand scale."
Subway, which has cultivated a reputation for being a healthy alternative to the cholesterol-laden, deep-fried, high-sugar, high-fat, super-calorific fast food chains, recently eclipsed McDonald's as the world's largest restaurant chain, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Part of Subway's success has been the introduction of the veggie patty. More and more, consumers are thinking about what they are eating and feeding their kids, and meat is losing out. Even former cattlemen like Howard Lyman and Harold Brown have rejected animal slaughter on both practical and ethical grounds, according to Yes! Magazine.
PETA FOUNDER SHOCKED
"McDonald's beef is pretty far from actual meat anyway, as their famous four-year-old cheeseburger illustrates," said Kobayashi. "So I don't think that their customers will even notice the difference in taste. If anything, McDonald's will have even more control of the taste, as everything will come out of an extremely high-tech laboratory. And if any firm has the resources to push the development of fake meat, it's McDonald's. Personally, I look forward to tasting their meat substitutes."
Today, fake meat technology is cutting-edge research. Last year, scientists at the University of Missouri made "the first soy product that not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh," according to Time Magazine. With McDonald's pouring money into this growing field, soon there will be a host of "I Can't Believe It's Not Meat" alternatives.
Ray Kroc, who took over the McDonald's Corporation franchise in 1954 and made it into the world's most successful fast food chain, was undoubtedly one of America's greatest 20th-century innovators. He would have likely applauded this bold step as the right innovation at the right time.
"When I heard the news, I was shocked, I was stunned, it felt like Christmas morning! But then I realized it was actually April Fools' Day," said PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, as she sunk her teeth into a juicy Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, adding, "Please pass the ketchup."
image: Digital Wallpapers, Flickr Creative Commons