The Florette Group is part of the McDonald’s Europe Flagship Farms programme, which was developed by McDonald’s in conjunction with the Food Animal Initiative. The aims of the McDonald’s Europe Flagship Farms programme are to encourage the sharing of sustainable agricultural practices that are environmentally sound, economically valuable and ethically acceptable. This is bing don by identifying existing farms within our supply chain that demonstrate excellent practice in at least one area of sustainability, while also operating to generally high standards in all other areas, and sharing these through online case studies.
The Florette Group shows how baby leaf production can provide high quality raw materials throughout the year, produced to high standards of food safety with strictly controlled inputs. They have excellent employment practices, and are optimising crop growing conditions whilst minimising environmental impacts.
The Florette Group is part of Agrial, which is an Agricultural Co–Operative. The business selects, prepares and sells ready–to–use salads and vegetables. Florette has 12 sites throughout Europe and employs a total of 2,700 staff, producing 1 million bags of finished product per day (equating to around 94,000 tonnes of product packed annually).
In Spain 75% of Florette’s raw material requirement is sourced from their farming subsidiary Florette Agrícola (founded in 1998 by Florette Spain). Florette Agrícola farms (through contract farming agreements) around 1,600 hectares of land (73 hectares of greenhouses) across Northern and Southern Spain, and in 2011, produced 30,000 tonnes of raw material. The crops grown include Iceberg, Scaroles, Baby Leaves, Romaine, Batavia, Lollo, Spinach, Chard and Radicchio. Around 93% of Florette Agrícola’s production goes to Florette with the remaining 7% supplied into the wholesale market. Florette Agrícola supplies 60% of the raw material required by Florette Spain to supply McDonald’s (Spain) requirements. Florette BU Spain has been supplying ready– to–use salads to McDonald’s since 1991.
Some of the key initiatives undertaken by Florette Agrícola are summarised as follows:
- Florette Agrícola employs a large number of workers on fixed–term contracts, and offers substantial assistance and support to all staff. The farm helps with issues such as the application of work permits, organising travel arrangements (from as far away as Thailand), and providing a support worker to help with any personal or financial matters. This provides benefits to both the staff and the company: staff members benefit from secure employment at a company that cares about their welfare, while the company benefits from an incredibly low staff turnover, demonstrating that these practices are working.
- Florette Agrícola maintains excellent communication lines with its parent company, Florette. This enables quality issues relating to raw material to be quickly assessed and, if required, corrective actions to be put swiftly into place. This is also a benefit when the raw material is of exceptionally high quality; the production procedures can be replicated and help refine the growing systems.
- The incidence of diseases in the plants has been reduced by altering seed rates (and therefore field plant density) during certain times of the year and according to weather conditions. This policy limits the amount of plant protection products being used, whilst maintaining raw material quality.
- Pre–harvest risk assessments are completed before salad crops are harvested, ensuring that any potential food safety hazards which may have occurred in the field are recognised, and if for any reason a crop fails the risk assessment, it will not be harvested. (Salads are one of the few items on the McDonald’s menu which are not cooked prior to consumption.)
- The greenhouses have automatic sensors which control the environmental conditions which are best suited to crop growth and disease reduction, thus minimising necessary inputs. One of the key benefits of growing crops in the greenhouses is the ability to control the growing climate. Without the greenhouses the crops are vulnerable to extreme weather, or conditions which are conducive to increased disease or pest threats.
- Florette Agrícola has made concrete bunded areas which are used for filling the sprayer, meaning any spillages can be captured and dealt with in the correct manner, thus avoiding any pollution risk. Filling the crop sprayer is relatively simple, although any chemical spillages, however small, can have dire consequences for local water quality.
- The business supports the Milagro XXI Foundation which helps the local community with several different projects and social development schemes.