McDonald's will use foreign meat! : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread

Burgers with an accent: McDonald's joins competitors in going overseas for some of its beef

Tue Apr 2, 3:05 PM ET


WASHINGTON - The all-American hamburger isn't all American anymore.

McDonald's is joining Burger King, Wendy's and other fast-food chains in importing beef from Australia and New Zealand because there's a shortage of U.S. beef that's lean enough or cheap enough for its burgers.

"The supply just isn't there," says McDonald's Corp. spokesman Walt Riker.

For now, McDonald's is trying out the imported beef in about 400 of its 13,000 U.S. stores, all in the Southeast. Customers won't know the difference, he said. "We're running a small test using some beef that is top quality."

Hamburger chains typically make their patties by mixing lean beef — meat that's no more than 10 percent fat — with low-cost fat trimmings that are a byproduct of packing plants. The resulting product is similar in fat content to the ground beef typically sold in supermarkets.

Australia and New Zealand have plenty of lean beef because their cattle are fattened for market on grass, not the grain fed to U.S. cattle. Grain-fed cattle make for juicier steaks because they are higher in fat.

In the United States, the lean beef that the fast-food chains need for their burgers usually comes from female cattle that are slaughtered for ground beef when they are too old for breeding or producing milk. Ranchers have been cutting back on their cow herds for several years, so now there aren't enough of the animals to meet the burger industry's demands.

Lean beef from Australia and New Zealand sells for 5 cents to 20 cents per pound (nearly 1/2 kilo) cheaper than U.S. product.

For financial reasons, McDonald's had no choice but to join its competitors, risking the ire of U.S. cattle producers by importing some beef, said Steve Kay, editor of Cattle Buyers Weekly, an industry newsletter. McDonald's announced last month that its profits were being hurt by weak currencies and that first-quarter earnings would not meet Wall Street's expectations.

"I'm a little surprised that McDonald's has not acted before this to secure their supply lines. I can only surmise that they felt very concerned about the political fallout," Kay said.

McDonald's is the biggest single buyer of both U.S. and Australian beef, which the chain uses extensively outside the United States.

There is no end in sight to the shortage of U.S. lean beef. After several years of strong beef prices, U.S. ranchers are starting to build their herds again and that means keeping some of their female calves for breeding rather than sending them to feedlots to fatten for slaughter. Fewer than 5 million cows are expected to be slaughtered this year, down from 7.3 million in 1996, according to the Agriculture Department.

Beef imports have risen by a third since 1996, but they are tightly restricted under a law that protects American ranchers from foreign competition.

Australia reached its U.S. quota of 378,000 metric tons by December last year. New Zealand filled its limit of 213,000 metric tons in 2000 and came close to reaching it again last year. The quotas could be filled earlier this year, industry analysts say.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (news - web sites) will oppose any attempt by Congress or the Bush administration to allow Australia and New Zealand to increase their U.S. exports. Instead, American producers are trying to persuade the fast-food industry to make its burgers from more expensive but leaner parts of the cow.

-- (uh-oh@we're.doomed), April 03, 2002


Just imagine how many more people will get brain damage when McDonald's starts to serve the mad cow meat!

-- (mad cow @ making. sponge-brains), April 03, 2002.

There has never been a case of mad-cow disease in either Australia or NZ.

-- Dennis Molson (, April 03, 2002.

Prolly so Molson, but that could explain the mentality of good ole’ Sponge Brain Bob.

-- Send (mo@money.please), April 03, 2002.

Mad Cow disease is not the reason not to eat meat. Murderers!

-- (Petulant Petula@PETA.pissed), April 03, 2002.

I don't want to get sued ... but a friend of mcine read the mcanagement mcanual over twenty years ago for a certain popular burger place. They were importing from Argentina at the time, and claimed to use the four lowest grades.

-- helen (kissing@mcy.mcule), April 03, 2002.

Mad Cow disease is not the reason not to eat meat.

It's true. Eating meat is wrong.

Just kill the cows and let them rot in the fields.

-- (yum@yum.yum), April 03, 2002.

They were importing from Argentina at the time, and claimed to use the four lowest grades.

Let's see, if I remember right, the four lowest grades would be snake, bat, rat, and . . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .mule.

-- (uh@oh.spaghettio), April 03, 2002.

um I think that's sponge-bob square-pants

-- (cin@cin.cin), April 04, 2002.

Can you spell ‘parody’ cin?

You must have young children, yes?

Nice break from Springer huh?

-- Send (mo@money.please), April 04, 2002.

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