Farm to Fast Food: A Burger’s Journey

Imagine the cleanest possible kitchen you’ve ever seen. But instead of the place for meal prep for a family, it’s a huge meat processing facility that supplies patties for some of the biggest quick-service restaurants in the country, including McDonald’s.

I recently toured the OSI Industries beef processing plant in West Chicago with a group of fellow registered dietitian nutritionists. This is where beef gets processed into burger patties on its farm-to-fast-food journey. Four Illinois farmers, including beef, dairy and hog farmers, were also in attendance. Because of the proprietary nature of OSI’s business needs, I can’t detail every step in the process we saw (some of what they do is considered confidential information). However, I can provide a few details about the tour, like the many quality and process checks they do every day prior to the burger patties being released to their final destination.

The cleanliness standards were evident at the get-go. Each of us was provided a hairnet and clean lab coat, and we were instructed to remove all jewelry and thoroughly clean our hands prior to entering the plant. We were also given a hard hat to wear. Don’t we look cute?

food safety tour

As a USDA-inspected plant, an inspector is on-site during every production shift. And they only use beef from farms that meet their high sustainability standards. Each farm supplier is visited annually; remote video auditing also takes place. After delivery to the plant, the beef cuts are inspected before being turned into patties.

Talk about being impressed! The tour, led by operations manager Darren Lange, provided insight into the farm-to-table experience – in this case, farm to fast food – where many of our fast-food burgers come from

dietitian with farmers

Later, we traveled to Marcel’s Culinary Experience in quaint downtown Glen Ellyn where we had the opportunity to speak with the farmers to talk about their part of the farm-to-fast-food journey and do a little cooking ourselves. Here’s a picture of me with JoAnn and Alan Adams, who farm in Sandwich, Illinois. It was clear from our conversation they take pride in what they do and are eager to share the story of their life’s work. They work hard to grow and raise meals for fellow Illinois families. It was an honor to meet the Adams family!

You can read more about that experience on a fellow dietitian’s blog here.

Christine Palumbo

About Christine

Christine is a dietitian with a passion for science, people and food.

Learn More