McDonald's says it will begin selling its fish sandwiches in boxes with the blue Eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). McDonald's has agreed to audits that will verify it serves only Alaskan pollock certified by the MSC as sustainable.
The move will make McDonald's the first US restaurant chain to serve certified-sustainable seafood at all of its locations.
According to The Huffingtonn Post, the packaging for all fish dishes served at McDonald's 14,000 U.S. locations will display the blue Eco-label of the MSC.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent nonprofit organization that "sets standards for sustainable fishing based on fish stock health, impacts of the fishery on its ecosystem and the fishery's management system."
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich and the soon-to-launch Fish McBites will be made with wild Alaskan pollock, certified by the MSC as sustainable. The MSC Eco-label will be displayed from February on boxes for its "McBites" as part of marketing campaign for the product.
The Chicago Tribune reports that although fish is a relatively small part of the company's menu in the US, it among the nation's top purchasers.
McDonald's move is part of an experiment to test whether eating only sustainably caught seafood will help to stabilize the declining global fish stocks. According to The Los Angeles Times, the experiment involves one of the world's largest fish buying companies that has agreed to source all of its fish from the Alaskan pollock wild stock considered America's largest sustainable fishery resource.
MDonald's agreed to audits with the Marine Stewardship Council to verify that all fish sold in its "Filet-O-Fish" sandwiches and McBites are sustainable Alaskan pollock. In exchange for the company's committment, MSC will allow McDonald's sell its fish menu in boxes displaying the organization's trademarked blue Eco-label. MSC will also benefit from the arrangement because its label on McDonald's product will give it a big publicity.boost.
According to Susan Forsell, McDonald's vice president of sustainability for the US market, it is an opportunity for the company to make a contribution to the drive for sustainable harvesting of natural resources.
The Los Angeles Times notes, however, that the move has raised some questions among scientists who argue that the long-run increase in demand for the Alaskan pollock will lead to depletion of the natural stock to the point that it becomes unsustainable.
This view is buttressed by the fact that McDonald's has watched previous sources supplying its 34,000 restaurants worldwide dry up. In spite of this problem, environmental activists see McDonald's initiative as significant because it is one of the single largest buyers of fish in the U.S.
According to Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of the company's U.S.supply chain and sustainability:
"We’re extremely proud of the fact that this decision ensures our customers will continue to enjoy the same great taste and high quality of our fish with the additional assurance that the fish they are buying can be traced back to a fishery that meets MSC’s strict sustainability standard."
While this the first time in the US, McDonald's 7,000 European outlets have been serving MSC-certified fish since October of 2011.
The Huffington Post reports McDonald's isn't the first company in the industry to indicate interest in seeking sustainable sources of fish. In late 2011, Target announced that by 2015 it will sell on sustainable seafood. Whole Foods stopped selling fish identified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and the Blue Ocean Institute as unsustainable.
The current move is seen as part of a broader push for sustainably sourced inputs, including beef whose sustainability criteria remain in dispute.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Gorsky, described McDonald's fish certification as a "critical part of our company's journey to advance positive environmental and economic practices in our supply chain."