When we think of epic business rivalries, we’re quick to think of Coke and Pepsi, Ford and GM, Apple and Microsoft — and McDonald’s and Burger King. No matter what we think of the fast-food industry as a whole, these two food companies have huge international footprints as billions of people annually turn to them for affordable food. So when they speak up, people are bound to listen.
That can be for better or for worse.
Last year, Burger King found itself facing a massive backlash from farmers across North America by airing a video ad that featured kids in gas masks, a redneck farmer stereotype, and references to “cow farts” — all in the name of highlighting the carbon potential of lemongrass in feeding cattle. So much was wrong with the messaging that even scientists connected with the research criticized Burger King on its marketing delivery. (Burger King has since made overtures to mend its relationship with ranchers.)
It’s no surprise that Burger King’s chief rival, McDonald’s, would use its marketing strategy to embrace livestock producers in ways that BK was unable to do initially. McDonald’s Canada created this ad that speaks to all that is good, noble, and positive about the direction of agriculture and the stewardship our farmers and ranchers display:
The livestock industry often receives a disproportionate amount of blame over livestock emissions, even though it is only a small fraction of the overall agricultural impact. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture contributes to 10 percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions, and animal production contributes approximately 9 percent of that total (by comparison, transportation contributes 28 percent to total GHG, and electricity 27 percent). So it’s absolutely refreshing to see a food company’s commercial highlighting how ranchers are working to make this industry even better.
In the McDonald’s ad, titled We’re proud to support the future of Canadian beef ranching, the discussion focuses on the sustainable future of livestock farming and its beef products. Estimates vary, but McDonald’s sells at least 6.5 million burgers daily around the world, so the impact of that process and the microscope that society puts on the industry is a notable one.
“It’s the same lands, the same grass, and the same soil, and we continue to farm it today,” one of the young ranchers says.
While many companies use children in their ads to nurture a sense of horror or fear (think Stonyfield or the aforementioned Burger King), McDonald’s uses the younger generation in this commercial to convey the enthusiasm of those who are fifth-generation or seventh-generation ranchers — the people who will care for animals long into the future and will adopt scientifically sound practices to make the industry an environmentally and financially feasible one for decades to come.
“Sustainability to us mean treating the cattle with respect, helping our ecosystem stay alive, a love for the land and a love for what you do, and making this operation better in the healthiest ways,” the young producers say.
In an era where farmers and ranchers struggle to convey what food production is like and how they work their lands and treat their animals, it’s wonderful to see McDonald’s capture this essence so completely and with such heart. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to tear something down than to build something up, and McDonald’s Canada shows that it is lifting agriculture with all its might.