Break the Chain Got a Beef With McDonald's?

Created 5/23/2002 (11/7/2003) When a company switches from buying domestic goods to importing the same products from overseas producers, tempers often fly. When the suspected culprit is an e-mail chain letter darling like McDonald's, the result is almost always Armchair Activism. Here are three examples of the hits Mickey-D's is taking now.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Folks

I have never done anything like this before, so bear with me. Most of you have probably heard that McDonalds is testing the importation of Australian and New Zealand beef for a portion of it's Domestic hamburger operations. Right now the beef industry is having a pretty tough go of it with dramatically falling prices and this doesn't help. Please make an effort to avoid going to a McDonalds restaurant at all costs. This hopefully will make a statement and cause their test to fail and they will again purchase 100% U.S. beef. If you need to go out and eat at a fast food chain, please use Wendys, they use 100% U.S. beef and poultry and intend to stay this way.

Thanks for the help.

Jeff Heldt

Jeff Heldt
Beef Consultant
Land O'Lakes Farmland Feed

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

It is true that McDonald's is conducting an experiment to import less than one percent of its total beef purchases from Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, later and longer calls to boycott Mickey-D's mistakenly identify South America as the source of the foreign beef:

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: Consumer alert!

Consumer alert!

All American Beef producers that sell cows at a livestock auction barn had to sign a paper stating that we do NOT EVER feed our cows any part of another cow. South Americans are not required to do this.

McDonalds has announced that they are going to start importing much of their beef from South America. The problem is that South Americans aren't under the same regulations as American beef producers and the regulations they have are loosely controlled. They can spray numerous pesticides on their pastures that have been banned here at home because of residues found in the beef. They can also use various hormones and growth regulators that we can't.

The American public needs to be aware of this problem and that they may be putting themselves at risk from now on by eating at good old McDonalds. American ranchers raise the highest quality beef in the world and this is what Americans deserve to eat. Not beef from countries where quality is loosely controlled. Therefore I am Proposing a boycott of McDonalds until they see the light. I'm sorry but everything is not always about the bottom line, and when it comes to jeopardizing my family's health. That is where I draw the line. I hope you will too.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

McDonald's beef please read this

Subject: Re: [Fw: must share this email - consumer alert]

We as cattle producers are very passionate about this. McDonald's claims that there is not enough beef in the USA to support their restaurants. Well we know that is not so. My opinion is they are looking to save money at our expense. The sad thing of it is that the people of the USA are the ones who made McDonalds successful in the first place, but we are not good enough to purchase beef from. We personally are no longer eating at McDonalds, which I am sure does not make an impact, but if we pass this around maybe there will be an impact felt. Please pass on your opinion.

**** This has Me just fighting mad. Just to add a note, all Americans that sell cows at a livestock auction barn had to sign a paper stating that we do NOT EVER feed our cows any part of another cow. South Americans are not required to do this as of yet.

**** McDonalds has announced that they are going to start importing much of their beef from South America. The problem is that South Americans aren't under the same regulations as American beef producers and the regulations they have are loosely controlled. They can spray numerous pesticides on their pastures that have been banned here at home because of residues found in the beef. They can also use various hormones and growth regulators that we can't. The American public needs to be aware of this problem and that they may be putting themselves at risk from now on by eating at good old McDonalds. American ranchers raise the highest quality beef in the world and this is what Americans deserve to eat. Not beef from countries where quality is loosely controlled. Therefore I am proposing a boycott of McDonalds until they see the light. I'm sorry but everything is not always about the bottom line, and when it comes to jeopardizing my family's health that is where I draw the line.

I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 =3D 300) ... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 =3D 3,000) ... and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers! If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all, I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you? Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

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E-mail is a terrible tool for disseminating information, as the discrepancies in these three calls for boycotts demonstrates. We're led to believe that McDonald's motivation ranges from saving money to a supposedly non-existent shortage of quality domestic beef. Interestingly, the last few paragraphs of the third example above appear to be adapted from another ill-advised boycott chain letter.

So are any of these claims true? Here's what we do know:

  • McDonald's is the largest buyer of domestic beef.

  • There is a documented shortage of lean beef in the U.S.

  • Many fast food chains buy some foreign beef.

  • All foreign beef is still subject to USDA inspection and approval upon importation. McDonald's only purchases and uses 100% USDA approved beef and poultry.

In a letter to Donald Patman, President of the Texas Farm Bureau, McDonald's Supply Chain executives explain the importation test and their company's commitment to domestic farmers:

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

McDonald's buys almost 1 billion pounds of beef from U.S. producers each year-thus making us the largest purchaser of U.S. beef. That's not all. McDonald's also purchases 500 million pounds of chicken each year; 156 million dozen eggs; and 60 million gallons of milk. In no way whatsoever will we ever lessen our dependence on the U.S. farmer. In fact, we are aggressively working with farmers and ranchers, on a state and national level, to strengthen our relationship.

With that said, there is a well-documented shortage of lean beef in the U.S. because of the declining number of breeding and dairy cows going to market. These animals are a significant source of lean ground beef. At the same time, consumer demand for ground products is increasing dramatically; ground beef now accounts for nearly 50 percent of total red meat consumption, and lean ground beef is clearly preferred by the retail customer. That's the reason McDonald's is conducting a small test in the Southeast U.S. In the test, McDonald's is only supplementing dwindling supplies of U.S. lean grinding beef with a small supply of beef from Australia and New Zealand.

Even so, the vast majority of every hamburger, even in the Southeast, is made with U.S. beef, as this small McDonald's test involves less than 1 percent of the beef we sell in restaurants. Meanwhile, all national hamburger chains have used or are using a significant percentage of imported beef; as much as 50 percent of their beef is imported.

The amount of beef that enters the U.S. is governed by a strict quota system. Whether McDonald's uses imported beef or not, the same amount of beef will be imported. We are committed to the industry-and remain steadfast-that we advocate keeping this quota the same.

In closing, we'd like to reiterate that McDonald's only uses those products that meet or exceeds the highest standards. Imported beef must meet the same requirements as the products produced domestically including our requirements for feed certification and animal welfare. Our stringent specifications are the reason McDonald's is known worldwide for consistency and quality.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Take some actual news about a well-known company, sprinkle in a little misinformation, drum up sympathy for the American worker and add a little paranoia about possible health risks, and you've got a popular, long-lasting chain letter. Break this Chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: Armchair Activism
References: TruthOrFiction.com, Snopes.com, kengreene.net

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