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McDonald's is lovin' North Dakota potatoes in its French fries

McDonald's in March 2022 accepted the Dakota Russet, developed by Asunta “Susie” Thompson, an NDSU potato breeder and associate professor of plant science.

A woman holding McDonald's French fries stands in a greenhouse filled with potato plants.
The most recent potato variety to join the list of approved McDonald’s potato varieties is the Dakota Russet, developed at North Dakota State University by Asunta "Susie" Thompson, associate professor of plant science and potato breeder.
Contributed / Justin Eiler
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McDonald’s has accepted a North Dakota State University potato variety for use in its French fries.

The restaurant in March 2022 accepted the Dakota Russet, developed by Asunta “Susie” Thompson, an NDSU potato breeder and associate professor of plant science . The variety has been delivered to McDonald’s suppliers, who are turning them into McDonald’s French fries.

Before the March acceptance of the Dakota Russet, it had been six years since a North American variety had been accepted, a news release from NDSU said.

The cross to develop the Dakota Russet variety was made in 1999, and Thompson selected the potato in the single-hill nursery in the fall of 2001. Eleven years later, the variety was named and released.

The Dakota Russet often is called a “grower's potato” because it is high yielding, doesn’t require as much fertilizer and water as some other potatoes, and doesn’t have some of the disorders, such as sugar end, which causes French fries to have dark ends, Thompson said. Meanwhile, she said it's an ideal potato variety "that is uniform and blocky with a golden Russet skin and creamy white flesh," she said.

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“Based on national testing and grower evaluation, the Dakota Russet is widely adapted across North America,” said Carl Hoverson, a potato grower near Larimore, North Dakota, and partner with Ron Offutt and R.D. Offutt Farms. “It also thrives during a shorter growing season, which is important with variable weather conditions we experience here in the Midwest.

“With this variety, we are able to consistently obtain excellent fry quality,” Hoverson said.

The Dakota Russet variety is one of eight McDonald’s has accepted in North America.

The variety has the low sugar, high starch characteristics desired in a potato that is used for French fries, Thompson said.

Acceptance of the Dakota Russet has been a dream of Thompson’s, because the restaurant’s French fries are the gold standard, she said.

McDonald’s is excited about the introduction of Dakota Russet to its quality group of potato varieties, said Daniel Roche, McDonalds’s global quality system manager of agricultural products. The company spends years testing new potato varieties, including quality, sensor and consumer validation, before they are introduced to suppliers and restaurants to ensure the potatoes meet McDonald’s standards, Roche said in a prepared statement.

“The Dakota Russet has delivered a great appearance, flavor and texture — producing the same great taste our customers love," he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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