Developed in response to major challenges facing British and Irish agriculture, Farm Forward aims to help secure a sustainable future for British and Irish farming by supporting existing farmers and helping young farmers into the industry.
McDonald's spends more than £320 million per year on its UK supply chain compared to £269 million in 2009. It buys ingredients from 17,500 British and Irish farmers to ensure the long-term and continued supply of quality ingredients for its menu, which is served to on average 2.5 million customers each day.
With an initial first-year investment of £1 million, Farm Forward is built around five core commitments that span: quality of ingredients; animal welfare standards; creating work and training opportunities for young farmers; environmental and efficiency standards; and knowledge sharing. The programme has been created in collaboration with leading farmers and agricultural experts including the National Farm Research Unit, beef and lamb industry organisation EBLEX and FAI Farms.
It launches with three projects, each informed by a new study of 500 progressive farmers, commissioned by McDonald's, to find new insights into the key challenges they face and the solutions they believe would offer most value to their businesses and the agricultural sector.
This includes a training programme for young farmers, which will enable agricultural students from across the UK to complete a 12 month placement to gain experience through the whole spectrum of the agricultural supply chain, from farm to abattoir to restaurant.
Starting in July 2012, the 12-month placement has been created in partnership with leading agricultural colleges and some of McDonald's biggest suppliers, including food manufacturer McCain and food production companies OSI Food Solutions and Tulip.
The training programme provides aspiring young farmers with the blend of farming and business skills needed to succeed in today's farming sector. According to McDonald's research, two-thirds of respondents stated that improving the farming and business skills of themselves and their staff is imperative to keeping their farm enterprise successful in the future.
Brian Mullens, senior VP, supply chain, McDonald's UK said: "We know the farming industry faces some challenging issues, and as a big customer of British and Irish farming, we want to do more to support the industry. Farm Forward is our commitment to help ensure the sustainable future of British and Irish farming.
"Supporting the next generation of farmers is vital if we are to secure the future of farming in this country, and our new work programme for young farmers is designed to help them develop the blend of skills and experience that progressive, modern farmers want and need.
Terry Pickthall, placement manager at Harper Adams University College, added: "The placement represents best practice in offering agricultural students the chance to gain hands-on practical skills and commercial nous. This is a unique opportunity for young people starting their careers to work across McDonald's entire supply chain, from the farm through to the restaurant counter.
"Through this programme, McDonald's is playing its part in equipping the next generation of farmers with the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in a dynamic Agri-Food sector, and the insight these students will gain will be invaluable as they look to start their careers as farm managers and agricultural professionals."