McDonald's CEO Skinner takes on critics at final shareholder meeting

Skinner presented the state of McDonald’s business with his successor, Don Thompson

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Thompson defended McDonald’s marketing practices toward children and parents, including the use of Ronald McDonald as a brand ambassador, primarily for encouraging active lifestyles in children and as the namesake to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The Ronald McDonald House facilities host 8,000 families worldwide every day as their children undergo medical treatment, Skinner said.

“I have two children, and I love them dearly, and I would never do anything to hurt them or any other children,” Thompson said. “Do me and this company the honor of not associating us with doing something damaging to children. … We understand your concern, but please understand the good we have done.”

Progress in humane practices

In a departure from activist shareholders’ usual tone toward McDonald’s at its annual meeting, one longtime critic acknowledged the company’s effort to work toward a solution his organization has sought.

Though he had questioned the company on previous occasions about its supply chain practices, Paul Shapiro, a senior director with the Humane Society of the United States, stood up to commend McDonald's for its February announcement calling for its pork suppliers to phase out the use of gestation stalls.

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“McDonald’s is taking the issue seriously,” Shapiro said, “and the Humane Society is pleased to see this progress. We look forward to working together toward even more progress in this realm.”

However, other shareholders said McDonald’s and other restaurant companies still had much work to do in ensuring humane treatment of animals meant to supply customers’ meals.

Another questioner pressed the company to source more of its chicken from suppliers who used the controlled-atmosphere stunning, or CAS, method of slaughtering poultry. Skinner responded that McDonald’s buys as much as 30 percent of its poultry in Europe from such suppliers, but the practice has not taken root in the poultry industry in the United States, meaning McDonald’s has no immediate plans to modify its domestic supply chain.

“We are very proud of our work around the health of animals in our supply chain,” Skinner said. “There is no consensus around CAS in the United States. Some of our suppliers use both methods, but right now there are no major facilities for CAS in the United States. … We’ll let our suppliers be the guide on this.”

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. operates or franchises more than 33,500 restaurants in 119 countries.

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