[See UPDATE below.]

McDonald’s has a new localwashing campaign playing out on billboards in Seattle.  This one targets the Ballard neighborhood …

McDonald's billboardPhotos: Gilman Park

… and comes with an amusing disclaimer: “Participation and duration may vary.”

McDonald's fine print

This one targets Seattle as a whole:

Another McDonald's billboard

Have you seen any ads of this ilk? Cheddar from Wausau, Wis.?  Tomatoes from Immokalee, Fla.?  High-fructose corn syrup from Ames, Iowa? Tell us in comments below. Or better yet, email your photos to grist [at] grist [dot] org.

(h/t Gilman Park)

UPDATE, 22 July 2010: It turns out this is an ad campaign running just in western Washington state, developed by the DDB agency. The “From Here” ads will run on TV, billboards, online, and in print though August. Check out a press release [PDF] and the campaign website and a fact sheet [PDF].

“McDonald’s is taking the bold step to provide more transparency” on its sourcing, the press release tells us. Here are company stats on how much food it buys from Washington farms:

  • 88% of apples served at McDonald’s in western Washington are from Washington State
  • 95% of French fries and hash browns served at McDonald’s in western Washington are from Washington
  • 95 out of every 100 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches served here comes from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest
  • McDonald’s purchased over 497,000 gallons of Washington milk from Darigold, a Northwest cooperative owned by over 500 dairy farmers.

Let’s assume that these stats are correct. I’m also going to assume that this is not a new “go local” initiative — this is just how McDonald’s was already getting its ingredients, and it’s been cleverly spun by ad execs. Washington grows a lot of potatoes and apples, and McDonald’s buys a lot of potatoes and apples, and it would appear that in some cases it’s efficient for the company to send Washington produce to Washington franchises.  That’s nice; I’m glad they’re not shipping in apples from New Zealand. 

But let’s get real: These local-esque ingredients are likely grown on industrialized, chemical-soaked, monocrop farms and processed god knows where, and then McDonald’s combines them with suspect chemicals and other scary ingredients, makes a lot of gross, unhealthy, potentially dangerous food that in some cases doesn’t even decompose, and markets it to kids. This is hardly what most people want when they talk about “eating local.”

My verdict: It’s still localwashing.

What’s your verdict?

Update: The results are in:

Does McDonald’s “From Here” campaign qualify as localwashing?

  • 84.1 percent — Yes
  • 15.9 percent — No