McDonald's grabs a piece of the apple pie
Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | McDonald's grabs a piece of the apple pie: "...McDonald's, which launched the Apple Dippers last year, now buys more apples than any other restaurant chain in the United States. And if the product, not to mention a forthcoming McDonald's apple salad, takes off, it has the potential to transform an entire agricultural industry. The chain's influence could alter for ever the method and scale of production, the varieties of apple produced, and the rights of the thousands of workers who pick them, and not necessarily for the better.
'McDonald's makes a huge impact, not because they are deliberately out to screw the food system, but because they are so massive, and because they demand a uniform product,' says Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, a damning critique of the industry.
With 13,700 restaurants in the US, McDonald's is one of the country's biggest employers: roughly one in eight Americans is estimated to have worked for the company at some stage in their lives. It is already the largest buyer of beef, pork and potatoes, and the second-largest buyer of chicken. With volume comes clout: last year, at an apple-marketing conference organised by the US Apple Association, McDonald's director of quality systems announced that if growers wanted to work with the company, they would have to cultivate more of two varieties of apple in particular: cameo and pink lady. Already, the cameo crop in Washington state is 58% larger than it was last year, according to growers in Yakima Valley. [...]"