Opinion: Alberta oil is McDonald’s overlooked ally

McDonald’s Canada has cleverly coddled up to our nation’s food producers.

The fast-food giant has been sharing a series of advertisements that carry the slogan, “Not without Canadian farmers.”

Each piece in the campaign features an empty container or an incomplete item from its popular menu, whether it’s a Big Mac or the lowly Egg McMuffin.

The message being conveyed is McDonald’s attributes its success to Canadian farmers, and without them, the multinational corporation wouldn’t be able to feed the appetites of its legions of customers.

Understood, of course, is the relationship works both ways: McDonald’s is a huge buyer of Canadian farm products, and therefore, it deserves the support of consumers.

“We spend almost a billion dollars on food ingredients every year in Canada alone,” a company spokeswoman said a few years back.

“Over 85 per cent of those purchases come from Canadian suppliers … so a large majority of our expense for food is domestic.”

In fact, McDonald’s can take credit for being the largest purchaser of ground beef in the Canadian restaurant industry.

These advertisements aren’t limited to television. Motorists who travel on highways, such as the QEII, encounter semis pulling trailers emblazoned with the feel-good, buy-local message.

Which leads one to wonder: As important as farmers are to McDonald’s business model, what does the company count on to get products from the farm to the warehouse to its restaurants?

What does McDonald’s depend on to get the majority of its customers to its food outlets, in the first place, where they can shell out their money for beef that has been sustainably slaughtered?

What does McDonald’s rely on after patrons have enjoyed their meal to get the waste to the garbage dump or the recycling centre?

That would be Alberta oil, of course. No modern farm can operate without fossil fuels, and it’s equally true that today’s fast-food conglomerates can’t do business without energy either.

Without Alberta oil, there’d be glum-looking farmers standing around wondering how they were going to keep their herds alive, and if by some miracle they were successful, how they were going to get their products to market.

Virtually every vehicle on a farm runs on gasoline or diesel. Farmers rely on fuel to till their fields, plant their seeds, bring in the harvest, and take their product — whether it’s eggs or cows — to somewhere where it can be sold.

Without energy, McDonald’s would be even worse off. It wouldn’t be able to construct its restaurants, never mind get its food delivered.

Now just as it’s true that McDonald’s doesn’t source all of its food in Canada, it’s a fact not all fuel consumed in our country is Alberta oil. Some people prefer to get their oil from dodgy regimes, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela.

But if McDonald’s is committed to supporting sustainable practices, it should create an advertising campaign that provides long overdue acknowledgment of the importance of Alberta oil.

No other energy producer demonstrates such deep regard for the environment as Alberta does.

Alberta oil is a key ingredient to the provision of many of the great things we enjoy in Canada, even McDonald’s food.

A Big Mac? Not without Alberta oil.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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