Coronavirus: Farmers to redirect supply as McDonald’s closes

The indefinite closure of all McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and Ireland because of the coronavirus pandemic will see the food redirected across other parts of the food chain, farm leaders say.

McDonald’s is temporarily closing all 1,270 of its restaurants by the end of Monday (23 March) as fears over the coronavirus crisis escalate.

The fast food restaurant chain sources ingredients for its menu from more than 23,000 British and Irish farmers, spending more than £600m on its UK supply chain every year.

See also: Opinion: Josh Wright: Food security crucial in face of coronavirus

But the closure of all its restaurants will result in farmers having to redirect their produce to other markets, especially the retail sector which is short of meat and dairy products because of panic buying.

Neil Shand, a director at the National Beef Association (NBA), said: “From the NBA’s perspective, we are living in a country that is now on lockdown. We are less than 70% self-sufficient in beef and we have surplus created by some organisations, such as McDonald’s, not operating in their normal way.

“Any meat produced by farmers that is not going to be used for trade in McDonald’s will be redirected in the food chain to make sure everybody is catered for and used to keep the country fed.”

The British Poultry Council, a trade association which represents chicken farmers across the UK, said it was up to individual businesses supplying McDonald’s to comment on the situation.

But a spokesperson said: “We are doing everything we can to carry on producing food and feeding the nation in spite of all the challenges we are facing over the coronavirus.”

‘Big blow’

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) said McDonald’s was an important buyer of Irish beef and its sudden closure was a “big blow” to the sector.

IFA president Tim Cullinan wrote to the European Commissioner for Agriculture last week pointing out that the commission needed to stand ready to support the EU beef market as it was likely to be affected by Covid-19.

“The Irish beef price is already well below the cost of production for farmers. They cannot sustain any further cuts,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it is reflective of what is happening across Europe where closures have had an impact on the food service sector. However, some of this has been mitigated by an increase in retail demand.”

Elsewhere, the chicken chain Nando’s has announced the closure of its 400 restaurants in the UK “until further notice”. Costa Coffee is also closing all of its stores.

McDonald’s food sourcing

  • McDonald’s spends more than £600m on its UK supply chain each year.
  • Uses 100% British and Irish beef, free-range eggs and organic milk from UK dairy farms.
  • Uses whole cuts of British and Irish beef, sourced from more than 16,000 farms. 
  • In 2015 McDonald’s moved to using only 100% British potatoes in its fries. 
  • Has been using organic semi-skimmed milk from UK dairies in teas, coffees, milk bottles and porridge since 2007. Whole milk used in milkshakes and sundaes is sourced from UK farms.
  • All eggs are from RSPCA Assured free-range egg farms.
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