McDonald's buys 2% of the beef produced globally © McDonald's
McDonald's buys 2% of the beef produced globally © McDonald's

McDonald’s swaps frozen patties for fresh beef

4 January 2018

McDonald’s has announced it will start using fresh beef patties instead of frozen ones in its quarter pounder burgers across the US by the middle of the year in an attempt to lure back customers.

The world’s largest fast food company said it had tested out the popularity of fresh patties in Texas and Oklahoma in more than 300 stores and that a “majority” of stores would be using them by mid-2018.

It added that it does not anticipate a “significant impact” on the price of the burger, adding that any increases would be made at the discretion of each franchisee. It declined to say what proportion of total burger sales were quarter pounders.

McDonald’s purchases about 2% of the beef produced globally every year, making it one of the world’s biggest buyers, according to the International Beef Alliance. 

Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s US president, said: “Over the last two years, we have accelerated the pace of change around how we source and serve our food.

“Delivering fresh beef that’s prepared when our customers order their food is just another example of how we are raising the bar – we’re just getting started and can’t wait to show you what’s next.”

McDonald’s has recently been undertaking a sweeping revitalisation, under the leadership of CEO Steve Easterbrook, after losing 500m restaurant visits in the US since 2012.

In 2016, the company said it would try to recover that business by improving its menu and digital ordering, as well as entering the delivery business. 

RJ Hottovy, an analyst at investment research company Morningstar, said the move has been driven by consumer demand for food safety.

“There has been increasing demand for natural and fresh products and that’s been driving industry sales,” he said.

“Look across the rest of the industry, consumers are genuinely more concerned about where their food is coming from, exacerbated by the Chipotle food safety scare.”

Chipotle became embroiled in a food safety scandal in 2015 after almost 500 people between July to November became sick from outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus at various Chipotle restaurants around the US. 

As reported by SM at the time, Chipotle employed IEH Laboratories to work with its supply chain and operations departments to make its food safety programme more robust.

However, the episode saw the Mexican-inspired chain suffer a deep decline in sales, which it has yet to recover from.

Hottovy added that although the shift from frozen to fresh beef is so far limited to McDonald’s quarter pounders in the US, it could potentially be used in other burgers as well.

He added that there would be costs associated with using fresh patties on the distribution side, which will be most likely borne by both McDonald’s and its suppliers.

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