McDonald’s Canada has put its money where its mouth is with an investment into the Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative (MBFI).
“We are trying to balance being responsive to our customers and responsible to our downstream supply chain,” said Jeffery Fitzpatrick-Stilwell, manager of sustainability and government relations for McDonald’s Canada. “I really look at this investment as being a part of that responsible side. We are being responsible by supporting the science and research that will build up the capacity for Canadian agriculture to be even more sustainable.”
At the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) 37th annual general meeting held on February 4 in Brandon, Fitzpatrick-Stilwell announced that McDonald’s Canada will invest $25,000 in MBFI for an annual production day tour.
“We are very, very excited about this investment,” said Ramona Blyth, president of MBFI. “We see great value in this partnership.”
“I think that it is great to be able to bring people from the agriculture, environment and now from the food industry, all together,” said Charlotte Crawley of Ducks Unlimited Canada, a partner organization in the initiative. “It is a nice marriage of all three industries and I am very excited about the opportunity.”
The exact details of the annual tour are in the early planning stages but representatives say the tour will be producer focused.
“This tour will give producers the opportunity to come out and see research on a demonstration level and get ideas of what they may want to do in their own operations,” said Blyth.
Fitzpatrick-Stilwell says this investment is geared specifically towards supporting producers in McDonald’s Canada’s downstream supply chain.
“Any time there is a really unique opportunity to support a multi-stakeholder, collaborative effort, it is something that we like to do,” said Fitzpatrick-Stilwell. “We are pretty excited to make this investment as it will aid research at a ground level that is focused around production methods and will be a benefit to our Canadian producers.”
Although the majority of the beef McDonald’s sources comes from Alberta, Fitzpatrick-Stilwell acknowledges that much of that product starts out in Manitoba.
“We have a 100 per cent commitment to serve Canadian beef and McDonald’s understands the realities of Canadian production. We know that a portion of the beef supply that ends up on our customers’ plates was born in Manitoba. So it is important for us to support initiatives here,” said Fitzpatrick-Stilwell.
With an understanding of where its expertise lies, Fitzpatrick-Stilwell says McDonald’s Canada will maintain an appropriate level of involvement with MBFI.
“We will take our lead from the experts as we always do and we will be as involved as we can be,” said Fitzpatrick-Stilwell. “From our perspective we don’t need to understand all of the research details but we do need to understand what is going on. It is not just about writing the cheque. We want to be involved but at an appropriate level for our expertise.”
Fitzpatrick-Stilwell says McDonald’s Canada representatives plan to visit the research sites and will return every year for the annual tour.
“This production day is going to be a unique opportunity for us to involve some of the people from our value chain. I would really love to get a few franchisees to come out and broaden their awareness on where the food that they are selling comes from,” said Fitzpatrick-Stilwell.
MBFI has had a productive first year in operations with a number of research projects well underway.
“This initiative has been quite the undertaking. A lot of groups have come together and a lot of work has been done behind the scenes to make this thing a reality,” said Duncan Morrison, Manitoba Forage and Grasslands Association representative with MBFI. “We are now reaching the exciting time where these projects are really beginning to take off. There are a lot of areas of focus in these research projects on forage. It is really giving the cattle and forage relationship a platform and we see this as a shiny opportunity.”
MBFI does not have an exact date, but will hold its grand opening sometime this summer once crops are in the ground, cows and calves are in the pasture and infrastructure is in place.
The initiative recently established its website, which can provide an overview of the research projects, keep you up to date on coming events and also provides a venue for input.
“Our website is up and running. There is a form on there that you can input your research ideas and that comes directly to me. I will take in those ideas and pass them on to our producer advisory panel for consideration,” said Carollyne Kehler, project co-ordinator with MBFI. “This investment from McDonald’s Canada really goes to show you how important this kind of research is. Hopefully we can continue to have projects that will be beneficial for producers, students and the public.”
For more information on MBFI, visit MBFI.ca.