McDonald’s Gets Olympic Exemption

The fast-food chain will bypass rules requiring vendors to source food from British farms at the 2012 games.

Olympic rings in London
Though most food vendors have to source locally at the London 2012 games, McDonald's will get a pass. (Photo: London 2012 Olympic Committee)
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Organizers of London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games are getting an earful after it was confirmed that McDonald’s would be given an exemption when it came to sourcing chicken from Britain. After all, the London Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) went so far as to develop and publish a food vision for the 25,000 loaves of bread, 82 tons of seafood, 31 tons of poultry and 19 tons of eggs that will go to serve nearly 14 million meals during the course of the summer games.

Part of that vision meant sourcing ingredients that complied with British Red Tractor standards for quality and originated in the UK. Suppliers were encouraged to go even further by opting for organic, free range, and ethically sourced. But according to Business Green, McDonald’s will only be sourcing 10 percent of its poultry from British farmers.

In a London Assembly meeting last week, member Jenny Jones called out the LOCOG.

“The two words here are sustainable and ethical,” says Jones. “But you’ve got top sponsors who don’t really understand those two words, and they certainly don’t implement them in their business dealings.”

Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the LOCOG, defended McDonald’s, saying they procured 55 percent of  their food from British farms, including beef, pork and eggs; and that they will be serving less than 10 percent of the total meals provided in the Olympic Park. Coe also noted that McDonald’s sits on the Olympic food advisory group.

Despite the downplay, that 10 percent is still a jaw dropping amount of food. The Olympic Park McDonald’s will be able to seat 1,500 people; is ten times the size of a typical outlet; and is expected to sell 50,000 Big Macs and 100,000 servings of fries.

Assurances that McDonald’s buying power would substantially contribute to the British farm economy didn’t satisfy Jones.

“It’s about you holding sponsors to account,” says Jones. “This has a resonance way beyond the Games. This is something about British farming and local food that LOCOG could have made a huge difference in.”

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