But I am also a mom, a commuting, traveling, working mom, who needs food and coffee on my way to work, at lunch and on my way home. And I love McDonald’s. For convenience. For our family of five on a road trip, on the way home from a game.
And I love McDonald’s for how they have tried to connect farmers’ faces to their food. Because I work and live agriculture.
But I try to cook at home as much as possible for my family. I don’t want to be a mom that raises my kids on fast food alone. And sometimes McDonald’s makes business decisions and I don’t agree because of the impact it will have on agriculture and specifically on a certain segment of farmers.
But if McDonald’s thought by inviting me to a breakfast in New York City that they were going to win me over by serving me oatmeal, apples and walnuts, they failed.
Because I am not easily won over by a song and dance, or even an apple and walnut salad.
What is probably different about me than other bloggers McDonald’s invited to breakfast is that I know a Michigan apple farmer. I know a few California walnut farmers. I know Indiana, Arizona and California egg farmers. I know Ohio, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri hog farmers.
I recognize big brands impact farmers business.
When I see a mega brand like McDonald’s I think about the farmers behind the food, far from the golden arches. And unlike most the moms in the McDonald’s breakfast, I do not care about the toys in the Happy Meals.
Two of those farmers sat beside me in the McDonald’s breakfast, Leah and Nancy. There were a lot questions and feedback from the audience about convenience, healthy choices, kids meals. Over 80 items on the McDonald’s menu are less than 400 calories. Clearly, our health is our choice. And it is not a big fast food brand’s fault if our society is obese.
As Jan, president of McDonald’s US told us, McDonald’s business is based on demand, what the business demands, what the consumers demands and sometimes those demands change the food system.
She told of her story, her husband’s family farm, her 35 years with McDonald’s and of her grandkids.
Cindy, a registered dietician, talked of the decisions McDonald’s makes when choosing food for their menus. There is a lot of research and testing. She also told of her family hog farm, her young child and her love for her summer motorcycling trip to Sturgis.
I ate. I listened. I thought of all the women in the room. Bloggers, like me but yet so different.
I thought of where our food comes from and how one mega brand can influence it. Then Leah, near the end of the breakfast, stood up and told of her family farm, selling their dairy cows and her 7 year old son’s dream to be a farmer. She told of the impact McDonald’s has when they make business decisions on farmers. And she said, “please do not put us out of business”. And a big lump grew in my throat. My eyes welled up with tears.
McDonald’s listened. Jan told of why they make decisions in the manner that they do. I asked them to do more to talk to farmers and to include it in their marketing, to not fear the activists and loud voices that speak out against them because there are people like Leah, Nancy and me that would support them.
After attendees came up to Leah, Nancy and me following the breakfast and thanked us for what we said about farmers and food. A few have kept in touch since then and might be reading this now.
But what I learned is that McDonald’s was not giving me a song and dance to win me over with their mega brand. It was not about the oatmeal, apples, walnuts, eggs or ham.
It was to listen.
Thank you McDonald’s and specifically, Jan Fields for listening to three farm girls in New York City.
What’s your experience with brands listening? Have you seen brands respond to you?