Macdonald on McDonald's: Academic impressed by 'mature' supply chain

8 August 2013

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9 August 2013 | Will Green

A lecturer in supply chain management has praised McDonald's following a tour of some of the fast food giant’s UK farms and factories. 

Alan Macdonald, who teaches at the City of Glasgow College, was one of 15 people chosen from 1,700 applicants to take part in the “quality scouts” initiative.

He described the McDonald’s supply chain as “mature” and was impressed by the level of automation and its responsiveness to changing demand. 

“I’m going to build this into some of my teaching,” he told SM. Macdonald went through an online application and “a few phone calls” before joining three other members of the public who followed the supply chain behind a Big Mac.

On the first day of a two-day trip in July they visited a farm in Chichester growing lettuces, a bakery in Banbury turning out up to 72,000 buns an hour and then a beef farm in Buckinghamshire – one of the 16,000 British and Irish farms that supply the burger chain. 

“It was a real eye-opener with the volumes and the people involved,” he said.

“We had access all areas. We had the opportunity to talk to all the people. I took a bundle of pictures and notes. It was all very open and transparent.”

On day two they went to an abattoir – Dawn Meats in Cardington, Bedfordshire – that supplies McDonald’s with cuts of forequarter and flank. 

Next was a beef patty plant in Lincolnshire where the burgers are made – run by food processing company OSI – and finally a restaurant in Scunthorpe. McDonald's has confirmed there is no formal contract in place with OSI – with whom they have been working since 1978 – which means "regularly sitting round the table with its supply chain partners to find ways through short-term changing factors and planning ahead for the future".

“There’s no additive. There’s no additional content – it’s pure meat. There’s a frozen element and pure beef. If you try and make a burger out of pure beef it falls apart,” said Macdonald. “There are robots at the end of the process packing burgers – the numbers are millions.” 

Macdonald pointed out that every three months burgers from across Europe are sent to Munich in Germany for testing to ensure quality standards are being met.

The quality scouts initiative, led by rugby legend Phil Vickery, invited members of the public to visit McDonald’s farms and factories over the summer. 

“We got to taste the pure burger in the lab. We got to taste the rolls off the bun line. I got to eat lettuce in the field,” said Macdonald. “The message we got was the suppliers are working to high-end specifications.”

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