It's 2018, and consumers are pushing fast food brands to make bigger commitments to environmental consciousness and the future of food. Sustainable seafood is one area that needs some work across the board, but when it comes to who's approaching it the best way, McDonald's is the clear industry leader.
Photo: Peter Pham
McDonald's has actually had a Sustainable Fishes Program in place since 2001. They've been working to utilize it to "restore depleted fish stocks, improve fishery management and conserve marine environments," according to their website. It's been more recently, though, that major steps have been taken to turn McDonald's into the fast food industry standard for seafood sustainablility.
Since 2013, the Golden Arches have been working with the Marine Stewardship Council to reduce the environmental impact involved in making their seafood products, like the Filet-o-Fish. The MSC is the second-largest source of certified sustainable wild catch, according to the UN.
A McDonald's press release claims that all of the Alaskan pollock used in Filet-o-Fishes sold in the US come from the world's largest MSC approved fishery. That facility produces just one percent of bycatch and has a zero waste program where all of the other fish parts are converted into other products (unrelated to McDonald's foods).
From a global standpoint, all of the fish used in McDonald's signature sandwich comes from sustainable fisheries, making it a world leader when it comes to fast food seafood environmental awareness. The company hopes to have that true for all of their seafood products by 2020.
Most recently, the fast food titan is extending their efforts to educating children about the importance of sustainable seafood. They just launched a downloadable card game called "Reel It In!" that attempts to teach kids to think more consciously about fishing. The game is similar to Go Fish, but everyone loses if people "fish," or ask for another card, too many times.
The fact that one of the world's largest quick-service brands is making this effort helps tremendously in efforts to protect marine habitats. Currently, 35 percent of fish harvested are lost or wasted along the supply chain, and 85% of the world's fisheries have either been overfished or fully exploited, the World Wildlife Fund reports. Having a business with the global economic power of McDonald's should help reduce those numbers in both the short term and long run.
Hopefully, other major quick-service chains will recognize that they can have a similar impact and commit to programs akin to McDonald's. It would be monumental in bettering the future of food. At least from a seafood standpoint, that is.