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McDonald’s Pledges UK-Only Chicken at Olympics; Testing Non-Polystyrene Cups at 2,000 Stores

McDonald’s will serve chicken exclusively from U.K. farmers at this year’s London Olympics, and 2,000 of its stores are testing alternatives to polystyrene cups, following outside pressure on both issues.

McDonald’s expects to serve more than 30,000 metric tons of chicken at the 2012 games. Earlier this year Farmers Guardian reported that the company is exempt from the Olympics’ local food requirements, and Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee, told the London Assembly that the company was planning to source 90 percent of its chicken for the games from abroad.

But the National Farmers Union and other pressure groups have repeatedly complained that the company has not worked as hard as other food chains to use U.K.-sourced food, The Telegraph reports. Now McDonald’s has backed down and pledged to use only British chicken.

The decision was welcomed by Lee Woodger, the National Farmers Union head of food chain, but Woodger pointed out that as McDonald’s is a signatory of Food Vision – an initiative whose members pledge to use as much U.K. produce as possible – the multinational has had two years to come to this decision.

The 2012 games have been accompanied by a number of sustainability announcements by suppliers and partners. In November, Coca-Cola promised to recycle all clear plastic PET bottles used at the event. In September 2011, BP Target Neutral, the oil giant’s not-for-profit carbon management arm, offered to offset any carbon emitted by spectators’ travel to the 2012 London Olympic Games at no cost to the ticket-holder.

However, the organizers of the London 2012 Olympic Games dropped plans to offset the event’s carbon emissions in September, blaming requirements that such offset projects be located abroad.

In other McDonald’s news, the fast food giant is testing a double-walled fiber hot cup as a possible replacement for polystyrene, in response to a 2011 shareholder resolution filed by advocacy organization As You Sow. The tests are taking place in about 15 percent of McDonald’s U.S. restaurants, mostly on the west coast, and are assessing customer acceptance, operational impact and overall performance, Environmental News Service reported.

The As You Sow proposal asked the company to evaluate the environmental effects of different kinds of beverage containers, and to develop recycling goals for packaging. The proposal received support from almost 30 percent of voting shares.

As You Sow described the company’s move as “a great first step,” and said it hopes the company also establishes a robust recycling program for post-consumer waste.

McDonald’s began to phase out foam-based clamshell food containers in 1990. In that decade, it reduced restaurant waste by 30 percent, eliminating more than 300 million pounds of packaging and saved about $6 million a year. But since that time, the company has continued to use billions of foam-based cups.

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