Frozen chips giant McCain has pledged to use potatoes grown using regenerative agricultural practices across its portfolio of products worldwide by the end of the decade, it announced today.
Regenerative agriculture puts a greater focus on soil health and quality, promoting biodiversity and more plant cover on fields throughout the year, according to McCain, which said it plans to use potatoes grown to these standards in its Superfries, Bistro fries, Potato Patties, Smiles, Tasti Taters and Homefries brands.
The announcement comes in the Canada-based firm’s 2020 global sustainability report released today, which sets out the headline goal to implement regenerative agricultural practices across 100 per cent of its potato acreage – representing 370,000 acres worldwide – by 2030.
McCain says other benefits of transitioning to regenerative agricultural practices include minimising soil disturbances and maximising crop diversity as a way to increase water efficiency, protect against erosion, pump more nutrients into the earth, create greater resilience to droughts and floods, capture more carbon and increase the yield and quality per acre.
“The pandemic has put a spotlight squarely on the precarious nature of our global food system,” said Max Koeune, McCain’s CEO. “But the largest challenges we face are related to climate change. It’s estimated that a quarter of man-made carbon emissions come from the production of food, and if we have to grow more food to feed more people, that will only intensify. If we don’t transform the way we grow food, the whole system is at risk of suffering irreparable damage.”
McCain plans to implement regenerative agricultural practices initially on its three ‘Farms of the Future’, the first of which is now operational in Florenceville, in the Canadian state of New Brunswick. Such farms are test beds for agricultural practices, supported by technology and innovation, which McCain could be implemented at scale and would be economically viable for farmers.
“Our belief in Regenerative agriculture goes back to our roots as a farm business,” said Koeune. “As a global leader in food production, McCain has a responsibility to re-imagine the way we grow a potato in a way that is beneficial for both the planet, and the communities where we operate. We have to act today to make things better tomorrow.”
McCain’s broader sustainability goals include reducing CO2 from potato farming, storage and freight by 25 per cent and reducing carbon emissions from all operations by 50 per cent by 2030 from 2017 levels, moving to 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, and sending zero waste to landfills by 2025.
Against these goals, the firm reveals in its report today that it has reduced carbon emissions across its global operations by six per cent over the past year, while reducing its water use in water-stressed regions by two per cent and increasing its renewable electricity use by five per cent.
Last year, the company also donated 53 million meals — an estimated 16,000 tonnes of food — to foodbanks and NGOs worldwide, it said.
“Our global sustainability report is an annual progress report for McCain to keep track of the commitments and goals we have set,” said Charlie Angelakos, vice-president of global government and external affairs for McCain. “With additional commitments between now and 2030, we are proud to play a role in combatting climate change and discovering a more sustainable way to farm.”