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WASHINGTON - McDonald's will soon begin buying beef from overseas, citing a shortage of the U.S. meat that's lean enough to make burgers, The Associated Press reports.
In doing so, the fast-food chain joins Burger King, Wendy's and others. McDonald's is currently testing the imported beef in about 400 of its 13,000 U.S. restaurants, all in the Southeast, according to the AP.
McDonald's is the biggest single buyer of both U.S. and Australian beef, which the chain uses extensively outside of the United States. Lean beef from Australia and New Zealand sells for 5 cents to 20 cents per pound cheaper than U.S. product, according to the AP.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has said it will oppose any attempt by Congress or the Bush administration to allow Australia and New Zealand to increase their U.S. exports, the AP reports. Instead, American producers are trying to persuade the fast-food industry to make its burgers from more expensive but leaner parts of the cow.
"We're more than willing to work with the quick-serve restaurant chains to come up with solutions to their supply needs that involve a domestic product," said Kendal Frazier, a spokesman for the producers' group.
In the United States, the lean beef that the fast-food chains need for their burgers usually comes from female cattle that are slaughtered for ground beef when they are too old for breeding or producing milk. Ranchers have been cutting back on their cow herds for several years, so now there isn't enough of the animals to meet the burger industry's demands.