McDonald's To Start Sourcing rBST-Free Milk Products

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McDonalds To Source Some rBST-Free Milk

McDonald’s will begin sourcing some of its milk from cows not treated with the growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), including milk from McDonald’s Milk Jug lowfat milk and Milk Jug fat-free chocolate milk (both rBST-free milk products often appear in Happy Meals).

Consumers have become wary of rBST, and for good reason. Even though the FDA considers it safe for human consumption, the increased levels of insulin have been linked to cancer (though studies are inconclusive). The hormone, which is used to boost milk production in cows, has been used in U.S. dairy products for the past 20 years (though banned in Canada and Europe for both human and health concerns).

Cows treated with the hormone deal with significant health concerns including hoof and leg issues, udder infections, and reproductive problems. Residues from rBST can also cause allergic reactions and antibiotic resistant infections in humans, which is why more consumers are looking for rBST-free milk products.

“While no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows, we understand this is something that is important to our customers,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald’s North America Supply Chain.

This comes after McDonald’s said last week it would use chicken produced without the use of medically important antibiotics. According to their press release, “All of these actions are the latest steps in McDonald’s USA’s journey to evolve its menu to better meet the changing preferences and expectations of today’s customers.”

The mega-chain also announced last year it would be purchasing verified sustainable beef by 2016. McDonald's is part of the newly formed United States Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB), which consists of 43 stakeholders along the beef supply chain including Walmart, Cargill, McDonald's and Tyson Foods, as well as environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Nature Conservancy.

"First off, it's great that all these players are coming together and talking about solutions," Jonathan Gelbard, sustainable livestock specialist with the National Resource Defense Council, told GreenBiz. "But if what they do is not credible and does not effectively address what the science clearly identifies, people are going to be watching."

It’s all part of McDonald’s efforts to show customers more transparency in where their food actually comes from.

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Image of McDonald's from Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock.com

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