Farm Babe: How fast food french fries are made


Have you ever wondered how fast food french fries are made? It was a real treat for me to get to go inside one of the world’s largest frozen potato companies (in Idaho, of course) and see it all first-hand!

I wasn’t able to take photos inside, unfortunately, but here at Lamb Weston, I got to see how they make french fries for places such as McDonald’sJack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., and Buffalo Wild Wings.

There are a lot of myths out there about french fry production — like McDonald’s fries being made with a bunch of icky chemicals?? Not true! To learn more about how McDonald’s fries are made, this video does a great job explaining. It really just comes down to using good ol’ fashioned taters.

A lot of fries here are made the same way: Potatoes are peeled through a steaming process, mechanically sliced and sorted (blemishes are automatically sorted out and used as cattle feed), and dried in a way to achieve the ideal amount of starch and crispness.

A tiny bit of dextrose or citric acid may be added to ensure the potatoes don’t turn ugly brown or gray, but that’s naturally occurring in many veggies to begin with. It’s hardly “scary chemical” related when the minuscule amount is unlikely to even be detectable in the finished product, not that it’s any cause for concern to begin with.

If fries are the same, what makes them taste different then? McDonald’s fries are my favorite, but it’s because they’re fried in corn oil, whereas other places may use products such as peanut oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil. Maybe even beef tallow (remember when Burger King used to do that)? That’s usually how you get differing flavors.

Lamb Weston’s facility produces millions of pounds of french fries per day — oftentimes sourced from right here in Idaho! They may even be stored here year-round. Fun fact: Potatoes are tested for pesticide residues. These links further explain potato spraying and harvest.

Food safety standards are quite high in the U.S., and at this Lamb Weston facility, they’re proud of the fact they’ve never had a recall! They have more than 20 plants around the globe, have been in business since the 1950s, and recycle a lot of their resources with the best technology in sustainability and energy efficiency that’s available.

With 650 or so employees at this Idaho plant, the place offers a lot of jobs for the locals.

What was particularly interesting was all the testing, quality assurance, and science that goes into making the perfect french fry. One woman was even physically inspecting freshly cooked fries for the perfect shape, size, color, texture, etc.

It was really cool! AND she let me be a quality assurance taste tester. Not a bad gig. Haha!!

To learn more about potato production, check out the Idaho Potato Board’s Famous Idaho Potatoes!

It was a great FRY-day!! 😍😍


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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