From Farm to Cone McDonald’s® Commitment to Dairy-Based Innovation and On-Farm Knowledge Benefits Dairy Farmers

Published on Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:07pm

 From Farm to Cone:
 McDonald’s® Commitment to Dairy-Based Innovation and On-Farm Knowledge Benefits Dairy Farmers

 By Amy Hildebrandt

 Partnerships are wonderful avenues to increase dairy sales and get consumers excited about dairy. I am especially excited about the dairy checkoff’s partnership with McDonald’s® which has led to a commitment by them to use real dairy in their menu items. I was thrilled when they switched back to cooking with real butter, I love McCafes®, and who can resist a McFlurry® on a hot day?

Speaking of ice cream, McDonald’s® soft serve ice cream now has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and it is sourced from U.S. dairy farms including ours. To celebrate summer, they are offering the Rolo® McFlurry® for a limited time and testing premium sundaes, like Turtle Brownie Sundae and Strawberry Shortcake Sundae. As they roll out these new dairy desserts, McDonald’s®, through their partnership with Dairy Management, Inc.™ and locally through Midwest Dairy Association®, also has made a commitment to tell the farm to restaurant story around its soft serve ice cream.
As part of that partnership, my family and I had a recent opportunity to host staff from McDonald’s® and Dean Foods, a dairy supplier for McDonald’s®, plus members of the media, including the Chicago Tribune and the Nation’s Restaurant News, on our family farm to show them the source of where all that dairy goodness they include on the menu begins.
By providing this first-hand farm experience to the McDonald’s® staff, it allowed our family the chance to connect with them, show them how we care for our cows, highlight the sustainable practices we use on our farm and answer their questions. It was fun to show them our new rotary milking parlor and free stall barn.
All family members were present so they could ask questions of each of us individually. Questions on their mind included topics from the cows’ access to the outdoors to why is the calf taken away from its mom to how many cows, acres, and employees we have, to do we ever get a vacation. The tour allowed us the opportunity to show how comfortable and cool the cows were in our barn. As the calf caretaker, I could explain the need to measure how much each calf was drinking and show them the vaccines I give them at birth to reduce the risk of illness.
Those of us involved in agriculture know more generations of people have become disconnected from the farm. We can be guilty of talking to people who are similar to us, but we need to have conversations with those not associated with dairying. They may not understand what we do unless we give them the opportunity to experience it firsthand.
The biggest takeaways the McDonald’s® group had was they saw how comfortable the cows were and much we concentrate on providing quality animal care from the balanced nutrition we feed to the housing and the sustainability measures we have put in place to protect the air quality and land. It allowed us to clear up common misperceptions, and I hope we made a lasting connection with them.
As farmers, we have known about McDonald’s® continued investment in dairy based-innovation to help increase incremental milk sales. I also am glad they have invested in their staff learning more about what we do on the farm to build consumer trust from farm to cone. To learn more about the national checkoff partnerships, visit And before summer gets away from us, be sure to enjoy one of the new ice cream desserts at McDonald’s®.

Amy Hildebrandt farms in partnership with her husband Ken, brother-in-law Don, mother-in-law Ann, and their four children. They milk 800 cows and farm 2,000 acres in northern Illinois. She serves on the Illinois Division board of Midwest Dairy Association.