At university I used to love flirting with danger at “cheap and nasty” fast food restaurants. That phrase being a reference to the low cost and probable food health and safety concerns associated with achieving a price so low. As I learned more about environmental and social issues I started seeing “nasty” in a whole new light: the impacts of the supply chain, its influence on obesity, packaging and the huge quantity of resources needed to fuel these epic organisations. Fortunately, in the last few months, a lot of momentum around sustainable food sourcing has developed. They are not so nasty anymore.

Last year I wrote about how perceptions of ugly, old and waste food are changing, and now I get to write about the same for cheap and nasty food. This article looks at organic meat, eggs, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy’s.

Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy’s farewell cage eggs

Apparently a slew of companies including McDonald’s already made such commitments but three case studies I learned about recently are Taco Bell, Subway and Wendy’s.

"Organic egg yolks are edible gold" by Darren Willman on Flickr
“Organic egg yolks are edible gold” by Darren Willman on Flickr

The McDonald’s goal is to get there in ten years time. Subway’s timeline for its 30,000 North American locations is also a decade. Subway is ahead though having already covered Europe and Australasia. Wendy’s plan is 5 years ahead of that, planning to go cage free by 2020 for restaurants in US and Canada. Here’s the source.

Taco Bell is the game changer. Its announcement is interesting because It wants “100 percent of its 6,000 U.S. restaurants will serve only cage-free eggs by December 2016”. That timeline would apparently see it win the race as the first fast food chain to do it. As the Triple Pundit article highlighted, it would send a strong signal to its competitors that the 5-10 year timelines are unnecessarily long and lax.

McDonald’s organic burgers

Believe it or not, McDonald’s announced in September that it is launching organic burgers to the German market. The burgers will be organic and from GMO-free fodder. While the blog Grist took a humorous and sarcastic approach to presenting this news, I am blown away and impressed that the company is finally evolving.

Yes, the progress on sustainable food sourcing is relatively new and there is plenty room for more improvement. More meat can go organic and cruelty free, GMO is a huge issue and there is a ton that can be done on the nutritional value of the fatty, oily, sugary goodness that cheap and nasty fast food is known for.

I think back to when I was told about a tactic that young suburban families would use to take pressure off their duties. To take kids to McDonald’s (or Wendy’s or wherever) to eat cheap food the parents did not have to make themselves, have them enjoy the playground and give the parent some alone time. These updates signal to me that the natural, sustainable, organic food trend is so absolutely mainstream now, and that I maybe have less to fear for future generations.

"And I name her Gladis." by Robert van Dalen on Flickr
“And I name her Gladis.” by Robert van Dalen on Flickr

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