As McDonald's continues to struggle through some kind of turnaround plan in the face of slumping sales and thirsty competition, the burger giant is testing an endless stream of marketing gimmicks and menu switches. The latest will raise eyebrows: McDonald's Germany will release an all-organic burger next week. According to a release, the new burger, called the "McB," is made from an organic beef patty, plus lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, red onions, cheese, and sauce that are not necessarily organic. From October 1 through November 18, about 1,500 locations in Germany will offer the new burger. On October 26, another organic beef sandwich — dubbed the "Long McB" and composed of organic beef, arugula, cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and a "spicy sauce," on a sunflower seed bun — will grace menus throughout the country. The price of the new burger has not yet been released.
The size of Germany's organic beef output can meet McDonald's purchasing needs
McDonald's has released pages and pages of marketing material to support its organic beef claims, including a video in which company representatives tour a farm filled with happy-looking cows and say important-sounding words. Though McDonald's new organic experiment is limited to Germany, this is big news for the fast food world for several reasons.
First, McDonald's has a history of testing new menu items or menu changes in smaller markets before bringing them home to the U.S. or releasing them worldwide. Last fall, the burger behemoth introduced its "Create Your Taste" build-your-own-burger kiosks in Australia. Nine months later, the kiosks — which, while novel, have proved somewhat confusing — hit California. Less than a year later they landed in New York City and are set to continue to spread across the country. McDonald's also tested its all-day breakfast menu plan in smaller markets before it announced that all U.S. locations would offer all-day breakfast beginning this October.
McDonald's increased demand for organic beef could change the face of farming throughout North America.
Secondly, Germany is the second largest market for organic food in the world after the U.S. Germany introduced government organic certification in 2001 in light of the Mad Cow scare, and it strictly enforces its guidelines, particularly on meat products. That McDonald's chose to offer organic beef burgers in Germany means both that the company sees potential for a demand for such an offering, and that the size of Germany's organic beef output can meet McDonald's purchasing needs. Though it's growing at a rapid pace, currently, the U.S. organic beef market only accounts for about three percent of total meat production. If McDonald's decided to introduce an organic burger in the U.S., the increased demand for organic beef would change the face of farming throughout North America.
Finally, it's no secret that McDonald's is a market leader in the fast food world. Restaurants across the globe watch McDonald's every move closely. For better or (often) worse, McDonald's has pushed the needle on everything from restaurant franchising to factory farming to the possible elimination of antibiotic use in chickens and its promise to use cage-free eggs. Competitors like Chipotle and Burger King may feel pressure from consumers to offer organic menu items as well. If McDonald's organic beef burger test succeeds in Germany, it could spell big changes for the future of the food system in the U.S.