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When ‘local’ goes loco for McDonald’s

Old McDonald’s had a farm (campaign). Why’d it go so low?

Twitter-types have had a lot of fun in the last couple weeks with McDonald’s new ad campaign that attempts to link its products to farmers.

I first asked you about it earlier this month, when Mickey D’s launched commercials focused on a potato farmer and a beef rancher. McDonald’s said it was about “telling our farm-to-fork story about our food.”  I asked: What do you think of the McDonald’s farmers ads?

Let’s just say my polite question, compared with the, um, dietary and paranoid pothead response, makes me look as prim as Miss Manners.

The folks who answered my Harvest Network query were also polite and offered thoughtful responses.

Michelle Eging, a self-described foodie and copywriter for an ice cream franchise in Utah, said her opinion won’t be swayed by mass-produced food companies trying to project the image engendered by locally raised and natural foods. Michelle said she sometimes eats at McDonald’s, but said she does so “purely for the cost and convenience.”

“As someone who does try to eat as much fresh and local food as my budget will allow, I’m tired of marketers trying to repackage their company so that will strike a moral nerve. Sometimes, changing the wrapping paper doesn’t mean you’ve altered what’s inside the package.”

Tim Zweber, one of our Facebook friends and a Minnesota dairy farmer, commented about “farmwashing.” Tim wrote:

“This worries me b/c farmers currently enjoy a relatively high status of respect from society for the job they do. I really don't like companies or politicians hijacking that respect and using it for their own benefit. I was amused by seeing McD's sponsored trending twitter hashtag #MeettheFarmers used by regular farmers more effectively than McD's used it.”

Oh yes, the hashtags. (Emphasis on the hash.)

Last week McDonald’s, trying to take the farmers’ stories to social media, attempted to use the hashtag #MeetTheFarmers, which then morphed into public relations fiasco. McDonald’s, attempting to solicit more farm stories, started #McDStories. It backfired immediately, grabbed onto by the aforementioned potheads, those with nightmarish food sickness stories, and others.

Rob Wallbridge from Song Berry Organic Farm tweeted:

“Hey @McDonalds, I'd like to #meetthefarmers who grow the dimethylpolysiloxane & tertiary butylhydroquinone for your fries!”

Mike Peterson, a farmer from Sperryville, Va., wrote to the Harvest Network that its “preposterous” that McDonald’s would do anything associated with farm-to-fork and that the company “should be ashamed of themselves for this charade.” He’s filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, he said, based on false advertising.

“They are trying to catch on to a movement that myself and fellow sustainable farmers like me are working hard to protect. The food I raise is sold and consumed within a 100-mile radius.”

Amy Sipes, a Kentucky farmer, told us that she doesn’t like seeing America’s farmers connected with McDonald’s products, which are “cheap and convenient.”

“I'm a retailer. Customers want to know that farmers care about their well-being & take that into consideration when producing/growing/raising food. They don't want to associate farmers with cheap as cheap is seen as cost cutting to pad the bottom line with no regard for the end user of the product.”

McDonald’s is still trying to change course on the Twitter disaster, but the hashtags are still making the rounds today.

“McDonald’s marketing executives must be pining for the old days,” wrote Jeff Roberts at paidContent.org, “ of buying only TV commercials,  billboards and other media that don’t talk back.”