FAST food company McDonald's is spending millions of pounds on a new farming initiative to try to ensure a steady supply of ingredients for its restaurants.
The firm has joined with farmers and agricultural experts in setting up the programme, Farm Forward.
McDonald's sourced foodstuffs from 17,500 British and Irish farmers last year, spending £320 million.
That compares with £269 million in 2009, and the company expects to feed more than three million customers a day.
The chain's new food-sourcing programme covers: quality of ingredients; animal welfare; work and training opportunities for young farmers; environmental and efficiency standards; and knowledge sharing.
It includes the National Farm Research Unit, beef and lamb industry organisation EBLEX and the Food Animal Initiative.
McDonalds commissioned research among 500 farmers to help launch three projects it hopes will sustain its business in the UK.
One is a training scheme for agricultural students to complete a year's work experience in the agricultural supply chain, from farm to abattoir to restaurant.
The company is also trialling an energy calculator, measuring carbon output on farm, which it wants to offer beef farmers across the UK and Ireland next year.
It's also paying to encourage improvements in animal welfare with guidance for farmers, such as identifying the value of range enrichment for laying hens.
Chief supply chain officer Brian Mullens, said: "Farm Forward is our commitment to help ensure the sustainable future of British and Irish farming, and make sure we can keep buying quality ingredients to serve our customers."