Now half way through her year as a McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer, Alice tells us how she followed the journey of McDonald’s milk beyond the farmgate, to Arla Foods in Leeds.
Having spent three months on farm already, I was really excited to experience the next step in the supply chain as the milk is processed.
Working on the farm, the last you usually see of the milk is the tanker disappearing up the drive, so moving to work in processing, I knew I had a lot to learn.
Arla Foods processes the organic milk for McDonald’s teas, coffees, porridge and Happy Meal milk bottles, as well as making the shake and sundae mixtures for restaurants using milk sourced from UK farms.
One of the things that’s surprised me the most on this placement is the amount of checks that are made to ensure quality and hygiene.
Milk is sampled at each farm as it’s collected by the tanker, then again when the tanker gets to the dairy. The whole tank is then sampled again to test for antibiotics and water, as well as how it tastes and smells.
Once the milk arrives at the factory the processing begins. The first step is to separate the skim and the cream, which allows them to be added back together in the right proportions to create the precise fat content required for different menu items.
During shake and sundae production for example, the skim and cream are mixed together as whole milk, and then pasteurised. More samples are then taken at each stage to ensure that the product is hitting the correct specification.
Finally the finished product is packaged into ten-litre bags and boxed ready to send to restaurants across the country.
As well as working in processing, I have also spent time behind the scenes in the office, which has given me great insight into the huge range of skills involved in running a successful dairy business and farmer owned cooperative.
I worked in the milk and member services department interacting with farmers, and the commercial department where I worked with the planning, customer services, marketing and sales optimisation teams just to name a few!
I also spent a week shadowing the new product development team and helped to give me a far better understanding of all the work and research which must happen before a new product can be launched.
Next I am off to Dorset for a few weeks where I will work on a McDonald’s Flagship Farms, where I’ll be learning about the challenges of producing organic milk and discovering how this affects the supply chain.