where does dairy queen get their beef

The Beef Behind Dairy Queen’s Burgers: Tracing the Origins of Their Meat

Dairy Queen is synonymous with cool, creamy treats. Who doesn’t crave a Blizzard or milkshake after seeing that iconic red signs? But did you know many Dairy Queen locations also serve up burgers, hot dogs and other grill items?

Those juicy burgers and sizzling dogs beg the question – where exactly does Dairy Queen get the beef for their sandwiches? For a chain known primarily for frozen sweets, the origin of their not-so-sweet meat products raises curiosity.

As a long-time Dairy Queen customer and burger aficionado I decided to dig into the beef behind the DQ burger. Join me as I trace the winding supply chain to uncover where America’s favorite ice cream shop sources their patties and franks. Let’s moo-ve on and see where Dairy Queen’s beef comes from!

A Brief History of Dairy Queen Burgers

To understand their current beef program, we must first look to the past. Dairy Queen has served food alongside their signature soft serve since the 1950s. However, burgers weren’t part of the mix until much later.

The first DQ “Brazier” locations serving grill items emerged in the 1960s. But it wasn’t until the 2000s that food expanded to regular Dairy Queens. Now, around 60% of DQs nationwide cook up burger and dogs in addition to chill treats.

Early on, DQ likely sourced beef from regional suppliers. But modern supply chains prioritize consistency and cost savings through centralized programs. This evolution leads us to their beef today…

The Modern Dairy Queen Beef Supply

Dairy Queen restaurants are independently owned franchises. This means each location can choose their own food vendors. However, most opt for supplier partnerships endorsed by the DQ corporation. This allows for lower pricing through bulk national contracts.

For their beef supply chain, DQ currently partners with just a few major protein processors These large companies operate plants across the US. to deliver patties and other meats nationwide to DQ franchises.

Two of their biggest beef suppliers are:

  • Tyson Foods
  • Cargill

Both corporations run massive processing facilities that source beef from feedlots and slaughterhouses. The meat is then manufactured into burger patties, hot dogs, and other proteins to distribute to foodservice clients like Dairy Queen.

How the Beef Gets to Dairy Queen

Here is a high level view of how the beef travels from pastures to DQ grills:

  1. Cattle are born and grazed on ranches and farms.

  2. When matured, cattle are sold at auction to feedlots for final fattening.

  3. Cattle are processed at slaughterhouses and packing plants owned by companies like Tyson and Cargill.

  4. Carcasses are processed into cuts of beef like brisket, chuck, round, etc.

  5. Cuts are ground and formed into burgers and hot dogs at food processing factories.

  6. Frozen beef products are shipped to Dairy Queen locations and stored in freezers.

  7. Beef is grilled and served when burgers are ordered.

From ranch to restaurant, the average burger patty can log over 1,000 miles in its lifetime!

Why Such Large Suppliers?

Using mega meat processors gives Dairy Queen some key advantages:

Low Cost – Massive suppliers can offer lower prices thanks to huge economies of scale. This keeps franchise costs down.

Consistency – Uniform products from centralized plants maintain the same taste and quality across all locations.

Efficiency – Large partners have complex logistics operations to quickly supply thousands of locations.

Oversight – Major corporations like Tyson and Cargill have resources to manage safety and regulations.

For better or worse, partnering with leading protein companies gives Dairy Queen a reliable, affordable beef supply chain. But it has drawbacks…

Critiques of the Modern Dairy Queen Beef Supply

While efficient, sourcing beef from conventional mega suppliers has its flaws:

Lack of Transparency – With long, complex supply chains, it’s unclear exactly where beef originates beyond the final processors.

Unsustainable Practices – Industrial feedlots and massive processing plants pose environmental and ethical concerns.

Public Health Issues – Repeated recalls from large beef companies signal potential safety risks.

Treatment of Animals – Most large suppliers have faced scrutiny over animal welfare practices in their facilities.

Quality Concerns – Some fast food burgers pale in taste when sourced from giant, industrial beef processors.

As consumer values shift, many are asking food chains like Dairy Queen to rethink their beef supply models. But change may require incentive and courage to break status quo.

Signs of a Shift in Dairy Queen’s Beef Sourcing

Despite the challenges, Dairy Queen has hinted at a growing interest in beef supply evolution through some recent initiatives:

  1. Antibiotic-Free Chicken – DQ began sourcing chicken raised without routine antibiotics in 2019, indicating an openness to change.

  2. Cage-Free Eggs – Their transition to cage-free eggs in 2016 also shows awareness of ethical concerns in protein sourcing.

  3. Local Sourcing – Some locations advertise burgers made from locally or regionally sourced beef, perhaps on a trial basis.

  4. Plant-Based Options – Dairy Queen now serves Impossible Burger plant-based patties at select locations, tapping into sustainability trends.

Though incremental, these moves suggest Dairy Queen may respond to consumer demand for more responsible beef production practices. With enough public pressure, they could lead the drive for supply chain reform within traditional fast food chains.

The Future of Dairy Queen’s Beef Supply

Where does this leave the future of Dairy Queen’s burger beef? They now stand at a crossroads, facing a choice:

A) Maintain the status quo with conventional mega suppliers


B) Innovate their supply chain and sourcing model.

The second path could involve steps like:

  • Performing supply chain audits to enhance transparency
  • Transitioning to ethical antibiotics practices
  • Shifting to pasture-raised or grass-fed cattle
  • Requiring higher welfare standards from vendors
  • Partnering with regenerative ranches
  • Sourcing from regional/local producers
  • Expanding plant-based protein offerings

Given Dairy Queen’s appetite for bucking tradition with offerings like the Chips Ahoy! Blizzard, they may have the appetite for leading supply chain reform in fast food. Their size gives them the scale required to transform beef sourcing norms.

The next time you bite into a Dairy Queen burger, consider the long chain of events that supplied the beef between those buns. And if you think their sourcing story deserves a refresh, share your feedback! With enough calls for change, we may soon see greener pastures and clearer conscience in every juicy DQ burger.

Dairy Queen – Why They’re Successful


Does Dairy Queen have real beef?

One 100% beef patty, pickles, ketchup and mustard served on a warm toasted bun. Menu items may vary by location and are subject to change.

What kind of meat does a Dairy Queen use?

At DAIRY QUEEN, we are very proud of our 100% beef hamburgers. We serve a high-quality hamburger with no additives or fillers.

Why are Dairy Queens different in Texas?

You can only get a Steak Finger Country Basket or a Hungr-Buster at a Texas Dairy Queen. The reason why goes back to a franchise owner who wanted his restaurants to offer local flavor.

Does Dairy Queen use Canadian beef?

John Champagne of Dairy Queen said his company will remain at 100 percent Canadian beef as “long as we can.” He said the chain wants to make sure “we are a good corporate citizen and will support the industry until such time as it is no longer feasible to do so.”

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