Advertisement

Fact Check: A Meme Claims Bill Gates Owns a Farm That Produces Potatoes for McDonald's French Fries. Here's What We Found

Twitter
Twitter

Claim:

Microsoft Co-Founder and billionaire Bill Gates owns a farm that produces potatoes used in McDonald's french fries.

Rating:

Rating: True
Rating: True

On March 21, 2024, a claim about Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates and McDonald's french fries received renewed interest when a conspiracy-promoting account on X (formerly Twitter) reshared a portion of a meme claiming the billionaire "owns … land in Washington state used to grow the potatoes for McDonald's fries."

This is a factual statement. Though a version of this meme that has previously gone viral made additional false claims — that potatoes produced on that farm are genetically modified, and that the farm is the sole supplier of potatoes to McDonald's — it is true that a farm Gates owns is a significant supplier of McDonald's french fry potatoes.

On its website, McDonald's provides information about many of its food suppliers. One of the potato suppliers featured is 100 Circle Farms. That farm is part of a large tract of farmland in Washington, near the Oregon-border, that Gates purchased through holding companies in 2018.

The Tri-City Herald reported the sale of this farmland for $171 million to a Louisiana company named Angelina Ag in September 2018. The Land Report — a media outlet dedicated to land ownership and resources management — reported that Angelina Ag was a subsidiary company of Oak River Farms. Oak River Farms, records showed, is a company that manages agricultural holdings for Gates' private investment firm, Cascade Investment.

Based on calculations The Land Report made in 2021, Gates is the single largest owner of U.S. farmland. Cascade, according to its website, does not publicly discuss its assets. During a March 2019 Reddit AMA, Gates was asked why he was "buying so much farmland." In response, Gates said:

My investment group chose to do this. It is not connected to climate. The agriculture sector is important. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions.

100 Circle Farm produces a massive amount of potatoes, and McDonald's is its most significant customer. "We can dig anywhere from a thousand to twenty-four hundred tons of potatoes per day… and the majority of these will go into McDonald's Fries," McDonald's description of the farm states. As described on McDonald's Website:

100 Circle Farms grows potatoes in circles so big they're visible from space. Then our trusted processor, Lamb Weston, cuts them into fries at 70 miles per hour.

There have been no reported changes in ownership of 100 Circle Farms since Gates' purchase. While the farm does not produce GMO potatoes, and is not the sole supplier of McDonald's french fries, as is claimed in some memes, it is factual that Gates owns farmland responsible for producing a significant amount of the company's french fries. For that reason, we rate this claim as "True."

Sources:

100 Circle Farms: A McDonald's Potato Supplier | McDonald's. https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-our-food/meet-our-suppliers/100-circle-farms.html. Accessed 25 Mar. 2024.

Culverwell, Wendy. "$171 Million Benton County Land Sale Is One of the Largest in Memory." The Tri-City Herald, 28 Sept. 2018, https://amp.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article218816700.html.

"McDonald's French Fries Do Not All Come from Bill Gates and a GM Potato Farm." Full Fact, 28 Sept. 2023, https://fullfact.org/online/McDonalds-potato-farm-GM-Bill-Gates/.

O'Keefe, Eric. "Bill Gates Buys Pays $171 Million for Prime Washington Farmland." The Land Report, 27 Sept. 2018, https://landreport.com/bill-gates-pays-171-million-for-washington-farmland.

---. "Bill Gates Is America's Largest Farmland Owner." The Land Report, 11 Jan. 2021, https://landreport.com/farmer-bill.