More than three million beef burgers a day are made at McDonald’s UK’s main burger-processing plant, OSI Food Solutions in Scunthorpe, with its beef sourced from more than 16,000 British and Irish farmers.
Sarah Alderton and Rhian Price were given exclusive access to the fast-food chain’s production facilities to find out how its meat goes from the field to the front counters of its almost 1,200 restaurants spread across the UK.
More than 700t of British and Irish beef arrives at the OSI plant every week.
Only boneless, whole cuts from the forequarter and flank of cattle are used.
For technical reasons, fresh beef is blended with frozen beef, which arrives in 25kg blocks.
The burgers are 100% beef and contain no trimmings, mechanically separated beef or binders and fillers.
On intake, every container is inspected for quality and to ensure the meat is at the correct temperature (below 4C).
Selected containers from every delivery are subjected to an inspection in very close detail and rejected if found to be out of specification.
British and Irish beef is kept separate throughout the whole production process using a colour-coded system: blue for British and green for Irish.
Once meat is approved it is taken into the production hall where it is minced in 1,000kg batches.
The factory is able to trace each batch back to the farm of origin.
Fresh and frozen meat is mixed together to help bind the meat.
The aim is for the burgers to be 20% fat. A computer monitors the fat content throughout the mixing process and optimises the blend to achieve the correct fat levels. Mince is then put into 300kg containers.
Mince is then loaded into forming machines where it is made into burgers, known in the trade as patties.
The forming machines are capable of producing 1,200 burgers every minute.
Burgers pass through a continuous freezer for eight minutes to reduce their temperature to -18C.
They are then packed by hand into boxes, which are weighed on scales to ensure they contain the correct number of burgers before the box is sealed.
It takes less than 10 minutes from the point of mincing to a burger being boxed.
Full cartons are kept in large freezers at between -18C and -22C before being dispatched to one of three McDonald’s distribution centres across the country.
Quality assurance operators take random samples from the production line every half hour to ensure each burger passes the quality and taste tests.
Burgers are cooked in a quality assurance kitchen, replicating the exact same cooking process the burgers undergo in the restaurants.
Burgers are cooked from frozen using a two-sided grill. It takes less than two-minutes to cook a quarter pounder from frozen or 42 seconds for a smaller burger.
Salt and pepper is added after the burger is cooked – so before cooking they really are 100% beef.
Burgers are cooked to order in the restaurant and to ensure the best quality are never held for more than 20 minutes.
Interesting facts about McDonald’s
- Burgers are made entirely from British and Irish beef
- Burgers are 100% beef with no additives
- The first McDonald’s restaurant in the UK was opened in 1974 in Woolwich, London
- 64% of McDonald’s restaurants are now franchised
- OSI Food Solutions is one of the largest buyers of beef, processing the equivalent of 1,000 head of cattle a day or about 365,000 a year
- OSI Food Solutions has been making burgers for McDonald’s worldwide since 1955
- Cattle cannot have been resident on more than four holdings, with a final 60-day minimum residency period
- More than 50% of the beef used by McDonald’s is dairy-bred beef, which is in line with national averages