Farm Food Facts

A Conversation with Townsend Bailey from McDonald's

August 04, 2020 USFRA Episode 86
Farm Food Facts
A Conversation with Townsend Bailey from McDonald's
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
A Conversation with Townsend Bailey from McDonald's
Aug 04, 2020 Episode 86
USFRA

Townsend Bailey leads sustainability strategy for McDonald’s North American markets. In this role, he supports McDonald’s US and Canadian businesses as they leverage the size and scale of their supply chains and 15,000+ restaurants to positively impact issues important for people, animals and the planet.  He plays a critical role driving the sustainability strategy and integration into these markets’ supply chains and operations from farm to restaurant through cross-functional collaboration with product leads, communicators, suppliers, industry, and NGOs.

Show Notes Transcript

Townsend Bailey leads sustainability strategy for McDonald’s North American markets. In this role, he supports McDonald’s US and Canadian businesses as they leverage the size and scale of their supply chains and 15,000+ restaurants to positively impact issues important for people, animals and the planet.  He plays a critical role driving the sustainability strategy and integration into these markets’ supply chains and operations from farm to restaurant through cross-functional collaboration with product leads, communicators, suppliers, industry, and NGOs.

Phil:

Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matters. Welcome to the U S Farmers and Ranchers in action, weekly video podcast , Farm Food Facts for August 5th, 2020. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Today's discussion is all about the role that one of America's favorite restaurant plays in agriculture, how McDonald's works directly with farmers and ranchers to supply Americans with their favorite foods. Townsend Bailey joins us as McDonald's director of sustainability with over 15,000 restaurants in the U S and Canada. His role is to have a positive impact on those issues that are important for people, animals, and the planet. Townsend also is responsible for driving the sustainability strategy and integration throughout the supply chain from farm to restaurant , his responsibilities are far and wide. Everything from McDonald's coffee to it's beef. He's also had the enviable position of being the global lead for the happy meal premiums, Townsend, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Townsend:

Thanks. So it's great to be here.

Phil:

So I guess the way I'm going to get started is what was your favorite happy meal?

Townsend:

I mean, there's my favorite half meal toy. Um, you know, I've got , um, got daughters and so one of the favorite things was to be able to bring home the incomplete sets for them and to watch them play with them. And , uh , most recently being able to bring home the whole , uh , toy story set and how they all fit together as a puzzle as well with a lot of fun.

Phil:

That's very cool. Very cool. So let, let's talk about the relationship that McDonald's enjoys with farmers and ranchers. Um, you know, that's, that's in your wheelhouse , um, talk, talk to us a bit about that and how it all works.

Townsend:

Sure. Well, you know , McDonald's is a food company, we're a restaurant business. And so without farmers ranchers, we don't have our customers' favorite products to serve to them. And so farmers and ranchers play a really critical role in our supply chain. Um , one of the tricky parts about working with farmers and ranchers and our supply chain is, you know, we're on the far end of the supply chain and it's a very complex supply chain with many steps in between , uh, the farm and the ranch and our restaurants and our customers. Um, and so then when we think about working with farmers and ranchers, we rely a lot on , uh , multisectoral collaborations like the U S farmers and ranchers and action , uh, or the U S round table for sustainable beef , uh , or the ecosystem services market consortium. So all of these different types of , uh, collaborative spaces that enable us to , um, connect with leading farmers and ranchers, listen to them, understand, you know , the topics that are important to them and identify ways that we can collaborate constructively with them to , um, to build a, a more sustainable and resilient supply chain for our customers. And that works for all sectors in the value chain.

Phil:

So clearly for the first time in a lot of our lives , um, consumers walked into supermarkets, walked into some restaurants and didn't find a lot of their favorite foods. So the supply chain became very transparent if you would , to a lot of shoppers who had never really even thought about it before. We've also seen a lot of retailers Publix in particular, who has reached out and they probably never had conversations before with dairies and , and some of the other people that you've had this relationship with. So when we look at this pandemic and everything that's happened , um, you really, your supply chain wasn't affected because you've had these relationships for years. Am I right?

Townsend:

Yeah, that is correct. And , um, you know, from the very beginning of McDonald's company, we have, you know, supply chain is a , is a, it's not just something, a business function. It's part of our strategic advantage. We think about it in terms of, are we think about the McDonald's system in terms of what we call the three legged stool of our company, our franchisees and our suppliers. And so supply chain has a seat at the table with our leadership from a long time if our , from the beginning. Um, and then our relationships with our suppliers , um, are we're looking at longterm strategic advantage and the , in the long term, that's what positions us to withstand crises . Like , like the one we're currently going through. Um, and it's , it's about that longterm investment for sure. And those relationships and the strength of those relationships.

Phil:

You mentioned having a conversation with these farmers and ranchers and being able to listen, what are some of the aha moments that you've had with farmers and ranchers, where they brought up something that you never even thought about?

Townsend:

You know , um, I think, I mean, gosh, there's probably too many accounts. I didn't grow up on a farm. I grew up in a city , uh, you know, and a lot of times we talked about how many generations , uh, of America , the average American is removed from the farm. And for me, I don't even know I have to go to my, my wife's side of the family. And I know that her mother grew up on a farm in North Georgia. Uh, and so I, you know, it's always a bad situation when you have to lean on your mother in law for credentials. Um, so, you know , learning from farmers as a, as a, as a daily , uh, uh, event for me, you know, and that's one of the things why it's so important , uh , for executives within McDonald's to get out on farms and ranches, you know, last may we had the opportunity to take our entire senior leadership team out to a ranch in Texas. And so we visited the 77 ranch , uh, and in Texas, outside of Dallas , um, Gary and Sue price are , are part of our flagship pharma program. And we spent a day out on their ranch learning about their operations and how important it is and the types of things that they think about management, whether it's water , uh, resiliency, managing for droughts and floods, taking care of their animals , uh, to make sure that we've got , uh , that , that they are able to continue supplying beef into the value chain as well. Um, you know , and that flagship followup program is something that I'd really like to highlight too, because, you know, we, in the U S we have two flagship farmers right now , um, Gary and Sue price, and then Lyle and Garnet permanent and South Dakota. And those two, those two farms, ranches play a really big role for us and making sure that we've got an open conversation with them and we can listen to them. Uh , and they know that , you know, that they can pick up the phone and call us, and anytime they read something in the media or have a question or , or something, they hear something that might be a concern for them. So we're constantly listening , um, also our rules and , um, you know, the U S Roundtable for sustainable beef as well, you know, and making sure that they , you know , every sector there comes to the table with equal footing. And so everything we do there is about , uh, collaboration , uh , and listening to farmers and ranchers.

Phil:

So I understand that for these farmers and ranchers , um , McDonald's is a pretty big customer, pretty important to their business. In addition to, to buying product from them. What else does McDonald's do to help these farmers and ranchers we're looking at, how do we invest in, in research , uh, to enable farmers and ranchers to tell their story, but also looking at how do we, how do we really recognize the full value that farmers and ranchers bring , uh, to society and to the environment?

Townsend:

So when we look at groups like the ecosystem services market consortium, that's looking at how do we value all the ecosystem services that , uh, that farm farms and ranches provide for America, whether it's storing carbon in their soils, the importance of water infiltration and water quality , um, or providing habitat and biodiversity as well. So, and thinking through, are there market mechanisms that can further advance that recognition? Um, we also work with the national Cattlemen's beef association as a , um, as a sponsor of their environmental stewardship awards program to recognize and, and , um , and promote leading ranchers who are, who are, you know , um, from a great examples of what ranching can do and what food production could do , uh, to help take care of the environment as well, too. And then finally, when we look, we think about research, one of the things we've been investing in is research into , um, grazing practices.

Speaker 1:

So we have a , um, uh, we've been in, we've been investing in research with Arizona, led by Arizona state university and Peter Bick on whether or not , um, certain grazing practices can lead to better environmental outcomes for , uh, addressing climate change while also providing better economic and social outcomes for farmers and ranchers too , because, you know, one of the things we know is if a practice our , um, our principal and management, doesn't lead to better economic and social outcomes for farmers and ranchers, it's not sustainable regardless of how many , uh , great environmental outcomes. So we really have to find what's that win-win , um, and really understand that , um, uh, how practices have trade offs and value between environment economics and where they all compliment each other too .

Phil:

So clearly you're doing an awful lot , um, in partnership with farmers and ranchers , um, how are you, or are you even communicating these kinds of efforts to, you know, your customers?

Townsend:

You know, one of the things that's really important for McDonald's is being transparent with our, with our customers. So we've got our, our , our mobile app, which has all sorts of information about our menu for one, but also food ingredients and nutritional information in there. Um, our website , uh , is kept , uh , up to date with , um, with all the information about our environmental, social, and governance work that we're doing to advance sustainability in our supply chain. Um, one of the things that's particularly exciting for me having worked in our coffee supply chain a bit, whatever I go in, and I see , um , a map of the countries where our coffee comes from , uh, for our , for our MC cafe and highlighting that origin. So you think there's a lot where our food comes from how it's produced , um , and it's continuing to become increasingly important for our customers too .

Speaker 1:

So we're really listening to our customers, we're studying our customers and trying to understand where do those , um, how do those messages resonate? How do we take them from simply disclosing and putting the stories on our website and featuring them in our social media feeds to , uh, to making them real , uh, whenever a customer comes into our restaurant as well. Um, you know what , there's also a lot of messaging on packaging. We talked about, if you look on our, the next time you're there, so you get a filet of fish sandwich, you'll see , um , the Marine stewardship council certification logo on the packaging so that customers can know right there. Uh , if you get a cup of coffee, you'll see the forest stewardship council certification logo on the cup of coffee. So we're trying to find out ways that we can On product with the products. Also provide those signals about how McDonald's cares about where our food comes from and how it's produced, and all the things that, you know , full value chains , farmers, ranchers, fishermen are doing throughout our entire supply chain to make sure that our food is produced.

Phil:

So I don't know if you're the guy, but I guess it's five, six, seven years ago when you change , uh , the coffee to the , uh , the cafe. Um , I actually did a segment on the today show , um, burned it on and you know, who , whoever came up with your new coffee , um, did a fabulous job. Um , I wanna , I want to pass that on. So if it was you, thank you. Um ,

Townsend:

That was way before my time,

Phil:

but , uh, uh, so number two is I love the filet of fish sandwich. It is one of my favorites and number three, my first job was at McDonald's, as you know, all your commercials always talk about in Bellville , New Jersey, the franchisee was 21st century corporation. I don't know if they're still franchisee may even still, it still exists , but I was one of those people that actually put together the big Macs when you had the little paper thing around it that you have to do it. And , um , and it was a great first job. So thank you for that. And thank you, Thompson , for all that you were doing all the McDonald's just doing for all of our farmers and ranchers. So thanks for joining us today on farm food facts.

Townsend:

Absolutely. Thank you, Phil.

Phil:

Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, please visit us@usfarmersandranchers.org . Also be sure to look for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA until next time.