McDonald's switches to officially sustainable fish

Martin Hickman
Saturday 18 June 2011 00:00

McDonald's is seeking to enhance its once heavily criticised environmental record by switching to fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

In the latest instalment of a long-running ethical makeover, the US company will source MSC Alaskan pollock from Alaska, New Zealand hoki and Baltic cod in its European outlets. As well as serving up officially sustainable Filet-of-Fish at 7,000 outlets, it will put the MSC logo on cartons, promoting the best-known scheme for preserving fish stocks.

The MSC praised McDonald's for its commitment to conserving the oceans, which are in peril from over-fishing. Toby Middleton, MSC's UK manager, said: "This isn't the work of a moment. It's part of a much larger piece of work McDonald's have done with fisheries towards sustainable sourcing. And the result in the restaurant sector is, I believe, a real sign of the MSC going to scale. McDonald's is uniquely likely to influence people's eating and shopping habits and is setting a good example to the rest of the food service sector."

It is another move that will improve McDonald's image, amid earlier criticism of its fatty food, environmental and animal welfare sourcing and low-paid "McJobs". Stores have been refurbished with a green livery and its in-house training scheme has won plaudits. But customers may be wondering what its general record on sourcing is: just how good is McDonald's?

Despite the hoopla, it has long had a good record on fish, turning away from cod in favour of pollock and hoki. Until now it did not have the MSC's seal of approval nor sought to promote sustainability among customers. While it sources free-range eggs and British beef, its chicken comes from farms meeting Assured Chicken Production standards, which means the chicken in its chicken nuggets comes from mass-produced, low welfare birds. Its pork comes from similarly low Assured Pork Production.

Katya Read of Compassion in World Farming: "They have got some really good policies. On eggs they have won Good Egg awards and they carry out a lot of research into how they can improve their supply chain."

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