McCain Foods is the largest manufacturer of frozen potatoes and french fries in the world. The company, which started as a Canadian family business in 1957, said it wants to make sure consumers can feel good about every bite.
“Consumers are two times more excited about all of our regenerative initiatives than some of our other sustainability work that we are doing,” said Jess Newman, senior director of agriculture and sustainability at McCain.
“There is something that really resonates with our consumers about very clearly understanding what’s happening on the farm.”
She added McCain has taken a stand in regenerative agriculture, a ecosystem-based approach to improving soil, yields and reducing synthetic inputs.
The company is working towards only sourcing its potatoes from farmers who use these types of methods.
“Globally, McCain is working with around 2,500 potato growers on five continents,” Newan said.
The company works with 30 different potato growers in Alberta, one of which is Harold Perry with Perry Farm in southern Alberta.
He said his family has been using forms of regenerative agriculture — like cover crops and an anaerobic digester — for years and sees the benefits.
“We are going to do the best we can and do the right thing within our means.
“I think the right thing is to create as healthy soils as we can, to produce the healthiest crop that we can, to sell the healthiest food that we can, that’s what drives us.”
He said he feels a food-processing giant like McCain making the shift will be good for consumers and growers in the long term.
“Once everybody gets on board and understands it a little bit better, it will be a better uptake I think.”
Newman added making these changes is needed to address environmental issues farmers are facing today.
“We have seen the impact that climate change is already having on our farmers and their livelihoods.
“This is something that is happening now. When we look across all the regions we operate, we are seeing crop failures, drought, wet harvest, yield stagnation, declines in soil organic matter.”
McCain is aiming to implement regenerative agricultural practices across all of their potato acres by 2030.