Jun 13, 2012
Golden arches may be golden ticket for Michigan produce

It was a whirlwind day at Dietrich Orchards in Conklin, Mich., recently, when the governor, state and local leaders, produce industry representatives and lots of Michigan McDonald’s franchisees turned out for a news event kicking off McDonald’s “From Michigan For Michigan” fresh produce initiative.

The company said it plans to purchase 21 million pounds of Michigan apples in 2012, though recent news about huge losses in this year’s Michigan apple crop make achieving that goal uncertain. It also buys Michigan eggs, pickles, blueberries, cherries, milk, yogurt and beef, and is using the initiative to promote the idea of sourcing food in the state.

Grower Al Dietrich said what McDonald’s is doing with fresh produce is good for customer health and exciting for operations like his family’s.

“It’s healthy food,” he said. “It’s apples in the oatmeal, it’s cherries in the oatmeal and it’s cranberries. Now, they’ve got this apple slice. And they also opened up this introductory thing for Cherry Berry Chiller (using Michigan cherries).
“This is great news.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recognized local suppliers and McDonald’s for its contributions to the state’s $91.4 billion food and agriculture system.

“You hear the word ‘Big Three’, most people will name three auto companies,” Snyder told the crowd, which included Michigan Department of Agriculture Director Keith Creagh. “When I hear the words ‘Big Three’, I think of another three that pop to mind to me. It’s our three leading industries: manufacturing, tourism and agriculture.”

Michigan is the second largest supplier of apples to McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, behind the state of Washington. Last year, McDonald’s spent $237 million in Michigan on raw food ingredients.

“What McDonald’s is doing is to source local food from Michigan agriculture,” said Diane Smith, interim executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee. “And the governor has been a great supporter of Michigan agriculture.

“In the last 10 years, agriculture has been the shining star in the state,” Smith said. “The governor sees nothing but great things for agriculture in the future, whether that’s selling locally or globally.”

Meanwhile, for Dietrich and his family, it was a little like Cinderella at the ball. Once the event was over, they had to get back to work.

“We’re busy packing asparagus today,” Dietrich said, “so we went from one fire to the other.”

By Kathy Gibbons, Editorial Director

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