McDonald's - Health and Environment - Gaias Homes

McDonald’s – Health and Environment

 In Climate Change, Environment, Health

Corporate sustainability, which is a balance of economic, social, and environment is a necessity for modern businesses. Additionally, companies caring about their environmental issue will not only benefit the environment but also the company itself. Consumers show preferences for green products and are willing to pay a premium price thus improve revenues. While dealing with environmental impacts, corporates may find ways to reduce their costs and waste. In this process – reputation is earned at the same time.

As one of the world’s largest fast food chains, McDonald’s is criticized because of countless problems. It is vital for McDonald’s to identify its key issues and to provide solutions.

The main issue of McDonald’s negative impact on the environment is global warming resulting from greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and its damaging effects on the rainforest’s for raising this cattle and necessary grains. For one thing, methane emitted from cattle is a major contributor of global warming. McDonald’s, as one of the world’s largest buyer of beef, is using 350,000 cattle a year. With so many cows farting all day, they are producing a considerable amount of greenhouse gas.

In the UK for example, 4% of the carbon emissions have their root in the gas emitted by livestock. For another, McDonald’s is one of the main causing forces for the devastating deforestation in the rain forest in south America. McDonald’s often buys meats for its burgers from privatized farms and these privatized farms, however, are being blamed for being not environmentally-friendly because the farmland they use to rear the cattle was not long ago a lush rain-forest.

In addition, trees in the rain-forest are cut down for agriculture to grow grain and soya to feed it to the livestock and poultry. According to Greenpeace, McDonald’s feeds its chickens with the soybeans grown in the Amazon rain-forest because those soybeans are cheaper than anything else on the market. Therefore, McDonald’s is not only responsible for greenhouse gas emissions but also destroying the so extreme needed forests, which could be of immense help to address global warming.

Global warming is an important issue for business as it has negative impact on economies. McDonald’s should care about this because global warming is and will influence food supply and transportation, which are two main sectors for its industry. Regarding food, global warming may affect production of seafood and agriculture itself. The rising water temperature has damaged the coral reef ecosystems to an extend where most of them are already died off. Those reefs were the homes to countless marine species. Loss of shelters is threatening the survival of those coral reef fish. Crop production may also decline. For instance, in parts of Africa, growing season for crops is shortening due to the warmer and dryer weather. Farmers may have to abandon their land that is too warm or too dry and invest in new areas. This causes problems of decreasing revenue as well as food productivity.

Packaging waste is another environmental problem McDonald’s should help to tackle, but it isnt. Considering how much waste is created when getting a meal from McDonald’s: a wrapper for burger, a box for fries, a cup for drinks with a lid and a straw, napkins, and a bag for individual use etc. etc… McDonald’s and its customers creates thousands of tons of unnecessary packing waste everyday, which ends up littering on the street and buried in landfills. Convenience and portability are the main reason for the packaging waste for fast food industry.  According to a survey in England, 29% of the litter on streets is the wrappers and cups from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s should take action to reduce its packaging waste since waste generation could cause serious environmental pollution and put human health at rick. Within Europe, 50 million tons of packaging waste is produced every year. To burn these huge amounts of waste will release so many harmful chemicals into the air, that our all health and the wellbeing of future generations is at risk. Landfilling, likewise, leads to land and groundwater pollution. A mayor amount of our wastes also flows directly into to the ocean and becomes marine debris, harming marine life. Additionally, waste generation represents human’s “inefficient use of natural resources”.


“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.” ― Pete Seeger


McDonald’s is kinda alerted of these issues and has announced several environmental initiatives to prove that it is trying to solve its environmental impacts.

Concerned about global warming, McDonald’s makes efforts to reduce its impact on deforestation and carbon emission. Firstly McDonald’s promised not to buy soya grown in Amazon rainforest anymore. Deforestation for soya farming and cattle ranching in Amazon is one major driver for global warming. Studies have shown the relationship between soya production and deforestation rate in Amazon. McDonald’s approach to stop using soya from Amazon could reduce rain forest destruction and help mitigate global warming. – But we should not forget – it is caused by companies like MC Donald’s in the first place.

To reduce its carbon footprint, McDonald’s tries half hearted to improve its carbon efficiency by using energy-efficient equipment and low-energy lights in its restaurants – which are themselves a toxic threat to the environment – containing huge amounts of toxic chemicals – having a low life span and are known to only reduce energy costs. But the mitigation in energy use is important as it has equal effect as agriculture and deforestation in contributing greenhouse gas emissions.

McDonald’s had to team up with E-CO2 project, a consultancy and energy auditing company, to measure cattle’s methane emission of its farms. The E-CO2 project does not only provide carbon assessment tools but also helps farms to reduce emissions by using new technologies on the farm. Livestock accounts for 14.5% of human-caused global greenhouse gas emission – so this is something essential to work on.

Hence it is critical to cut emissions from its livestock production, McDonald’s solution to this issue, which is changing farming techniques can be considered appropriate. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the adoption of better techniques can cut as much as 30% of global warming gases. In 2014, the fast-food chain took another step to reduce carbon emission, announcing it would start purchasing verified sustainable beef. Nevertheless, McDonald’s is criticized for not giving definition for sustainable and not providing what percentage will its meat come from those sources – which makes this more of a Public Relation Stunt than anything else

To deal with packaging waste issue, McDonald’s redesigned it’s packaging with sustainable materials and to be recyclable. In 2011, McDonald’s claimed that 82% of its packaging are made from renewable materials. But when we ask questions in the paper Industry that produces McDonald’s Packaging Paper – those companies do not work with recycled paper at all. Which degrades those statements from MC Donald’s side to absolute false statements and lies.

In the US restaurants, McDonald’s stopped using polystyrene famed coffee cups and replaced them with paper-based cups because of pressure from the public and – of course – cost reductions. This approach could have positive effect on the marine environment.

But foamed polystyrene is frequently used for fast food packaging. This foamed plastic, however, is non-sustainable and is not widely recycled. After littered, they may easily travel through gutters and end up in the ocean. It is the most common components of marine debris. When the polystyrene breaks down into small indigestible pellets, marine animals or birds may mistake them as food and eat them, which leads to their death. Although paper cups still have its own problems such as energy waste and the chemicals used during the production, it is a recyclable resource and a step into the right direction.

Besides redesigning packaging, recycling programs are introduced. For example, 11 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK are recycling waste to turn them into electricity instead of sending them to landfills. Working with the Environmental Defense Fund helps McDonald’s to find ways to reuse and recycle packaging.


McDonald’s “slime” scandal

Food activist Jamie Oliver, a British TV – cook was shocked when he learned that ammonia hydroxide used by McDonald’s to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for its burgers in the USA.



In 1999 Jamie Oliver began his TV chef career in the British TV series ‘The Naked Chef.’ He was awarded an MBE for his services to hospitality. But his healthy eating crusade, hasn’t always gone smoothly in the U.S. In 2010 while filming ‘Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution’ he broke down when he met serious resistance after the residents of America’s country’s fattest city, Huntington, West Virginia, were uninterested in his advice. After a confrontation with school dinner ladies, the TV chef sobbed: ‘They don’t understand me. They don’t know why I’m here.’ That year he suffered another setback with a doom-filled lecture from show host David Letterman. The host told Oliver he believed diet pills were the only successful way to lose weight in the U.S. and that he expected humans to ‘evolve to the point where 1,000 years from now we all weigh 500-600lbs and it will be OK.’ 

But after years of fights and confrontations – Hamburger chef Jamie Oliver has won his long-fought battle against one of the largest fast food chains in the world. After Oliver showed how McDonald’s hamburgers are made, the franchise finally announced that it will change its recipe, and yet there was barely a peep about this in the mainstream, corporate media. Oliver repeatedly explained to the public, over several years – in documentaries, television shows and interviews – that the fatty parts of beef are “washed” in ammonium hydroxide and used in the filling of the burger. Before this process, according to the presenter, the food is deemed unfit for human consumption. According to the chef and hamburger enthusiast, Jamie Oliver, who has undertaken a war against the fast food industry,


“Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold in the cheapest way for dogs, and after this process, is being given to human beings.”

Besides the low quality of the meat, the ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. Oliver famously coined this the “the pink slime process.”


“Why would any sensible human being put meat filled with ammonia in the mouths of their children?” Oliver asked.


In one of his colorful demonstrations, Oliver demonstrates to children how nuggets are made. After selecting the best parts of the chicken, the remains (fat, skin and internal organs) are processed for these fried foods.

In the United States, however, Burger King and Taco Bell had then already abandoned the use of ammonia in their products. The food industry uses ammonium hydroxide as an anti-microbial agent in meats, which has allowed McDonald’s to use otherwise “inedible meat.”

Most disturbing of all is the horrifying fact that because ammonium hydroxide is considered part of the “component in a production procedure” by the USDA, consumers may not know when the chemical is in their food.

Good news for people outside of the USA – Pink slime’ has never been used in McDonald’s beef patties in Europe because of governmental regulations in the European Union nor in south America due to low meat prices. After months of campaigning in US television, McDonald’s have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.



McDonald’s has been criticized for having bad influences on the environment and health. To provide meat for its cheap priced food, McDonald’s indirectly caused deforestation in rain forests, greenhouse gas emissions and health issues all over the world. In addition, McDonald’s uses too much unnecessary packaging which are non-recyclable and non-renewable. McDonald’s could successfully reduce its negative impacts. However, McDonald’s still cannot guarantee that its meat all come from sustainable resources or that its food is actually nutritious and healthy. 

You may also like:

Spread the love
Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

error: Content is protected !!