Is McDonald’s a responsible purveyor of local foods? That’s what a series of billboards in Seattle would have potential customers believe. The billboards (courtesy of Grist) feature pictures of McDonald’s french fries side by side with potatoes that were supposedly grown in the neighboring area. But while this may be an egregious display of localwashing, it might also be true.
Localwashing–the practice, in this case, of hawking local ingredients that only tell part of a much larger unsustainable story–is growing in tandem with the public’s increasing interest in all things green. Grist has a great series of localwashing-inspired images, including Barnes & Noble’s local books campaign, Hellman’s Canadian advertisement bragging about locally sourced ingredients (including high-fructose corn syrup!) and a Lay’s ad touting locally grown Iowa potato chips.
It’s entirely possible that McDonald’s sources potatoes from Richland or Pasco, Washington. Both areas do grow potatoes, and McDonald’s is the largest potato buyer in the country. But is that where all of the McDonalds’ locations in Seattle get their potatoes from? A disclaimer at the bottom of MickeyD’s billboards–“Participating and duration may vary”–suggests otherwise.
Just because McDonald’s sources its potatoes locally doesn’t mean any other ingredients on the menu come from the neighborhood, or even the state. And while McDonald’s brags about its potatoes, which might only be local because of coincidence, fast food chains like Burgerville are making an actual effort to source local, sustainable ingredients. So yes, McDonald’s potatoes might be grown locally, but that hardly makes the chain a beacon of fast food sustainability.