*I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for McDonald’s. I attended an event to facilitate my review and received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.
Now I don’t know about y’all, but every once in awhile, I’m just too tired to cook. On days like that, we might eat leftovers or sandwiches, but occasionally we’ll head to a fast food restaurant to pick something up. I’ll admit it. I can’t do it all, and on days when that feels particularly true, I might head to McDonald’s to pick up a Happy Meal for Ayva and a burger or chicken wrap for Terrence and me. Because I do care about what we eat, even when I’m not cooking it, I couldn’t wait to RSVP to an invitation for #McDTour, a blogger field trip to visit Taylor Farms in Salinas, California. Taylor Farms is the produce supplier for 60% of McDonald’s restaurants across the country. Since 35 menu items at McDonald’s feature lettuce, that’s a whole lot of green!
I always love visiting farms, and learning more about how food gets from the earth to my plate. It’s interesting how different farms have different processes, too. Our group met at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Jose, and hopped on a bus to Taylor Farms in Salinas. At Taylor Farms, they made it clear that they were not compromising even a little bit when it came to protecting the sanitary integrity of their produce. We were asked to remove all jewelry, put hairnets on, and wash and sanitize our hands before stepping on the lettuce fields. Once on the fields, the smell of the fresh lettuce was absolutely amazing! I’m the weirdo who loves greens without any dressing, so smelling the delicious romaine and iceberg was like a dream! The Taylor Farm reps shared some of the ways that they are practicing sustainability, and are extremely proactive when it comes to energy and water conservation. We also learned that Taylor Farms has invested in new machinery to support their employees and make their job less physically stressful.
After wiping the mud off of our shoes, we hopped back on the bus and headed to Taylor Farms’ Packaging and Distribution Center where the lettuce is taken straight from the farm to be packaged. There we learned that the produce that we ate in our McDonald’s meals is likely to be fresher than the bagged produce that we purchase in the grocery store. We saw how the lettuce was cleaned, and I learned a really important lesson. Did you know that bagged produced is thoroughly washed, and you could eat it straight from the bag without rinsing? I did, but I never trusted it until the Taylor Farm rep pointed out that it had a better chance of being contaminated by other foods (raw chicken, for example) in our homes. Makes sense, and, hey…that’s one less thing that I have to do!
Our trip ended at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas where we had a delicious lunch, and a Q&A session with McDonald’s suppliers. In attendance was John Slater (ARYZTA Fresh Start Bakeries), Jon Nash (Cargill), Bill Brown (Chiquita-Fresh Express), Crystal Dohner (Crystal Creamery), and Stephanie Jackson (Taylor Farms). Each rep shared more about their company’s affiliation with McDonald’s, and the overall consensus was that McDonald’s held them to high quality standards that they were happy to meet. Every single one of the suppliers were focused on sustainability, and it was really interesting to hear how their companies were committed to making sure they were making great use of the earth’s resources.
The highlight of the day definitely had to be the lunch. The meal was inspired by McDonald’s meals, and even featured some of the same ingredients. The chefs who conceived the meal, Sam Bozzo and Gene Sakahara (together, called “SakaBozzo”) led a team of chefs who created several lovely dishes including French Onion Soup, a Mini Mac, super yummy green salad, Stuffed Chicken Breast, and the most amazing Chocolate Espresso Cake ever! It was a wonderful end to an informative and eye-opening day.