Coronavirus: Farms’ food supplies will be diverted to supermarkets after McDonald’s closures
PUBLISHED: 11:37 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:03 24 March 2020
Farming leaders said the “huge surplus” of food supplies caused by the closure of major restaurant chains like McDonald’s will now be redirected to shops where consumers can buy it.
Concerns over the spread of coronavirus have forced the fast food giant to temporarily close all of its 1,270 restaurants – which source £600m of ingredients each year from 23,000 British and Irish farmers, including many in East Anglia.
But the region’s agricultural leaders are confident that supplies of beef, potatoes and pork – originally destined to become take-away fries and burgers – will be quickly diverted to retailers via their “incredibly flexible and nimble” supply chains.
Andrew Blenkiron, estate director of the Euston Estate near Thetford, is also vice-chairman of the Red Tractor assurance scheme and vice chairman of the Suffolk branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
“Everyone is so integrated in this supply chain that they have the ability to easily redirect product from one customer to another,” he said. “The people who process and pack for McDonald’s will also process and pack for supermarkets as well. So instead of mince beef for fast food burgers, it could be prime cuts for the supermarkets.
“There are still cattle that need to be slaughtered and they will have all that beef in surplus. But they are adaptable and nimble enough to deal with that.
“The key to this is the retailers and the food services sector are generally working together.”
Former Norfolk NFU chairman Tony Bambridge, of Norfolk-based potato specialists B and C Farming, supplies McDonald’s via processors McCain – so he said his potatoes would now be made into oven chips rather than restaurant fries.
“We have still got to find 65bn meals every year,” he said. “All those meals that we bought through McDonald’s, those people are going to eat something else somewhere, probably in the home.
“McCain produces about 80pc of McDonald’s French fries and hash browns, but out of the same factory they also produce oven chips.”
Neil Shand, a director at the National Beef Association (NBA), said: “From the NBA’s perspective, we are living in a country that is now on lockdown. We are less than 70pc self-sufficient in beef and we have surplus created by some organisations, such as McDonald’s, not operating in their normal way.
“Any meat produced by farmers that is not going to be used for trade in McDonald’s will be redirected in the food chain to make sure everybody is catered for and used to keep the country fed.”
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