Here's Where All Of Chick-Fil-A's Potatoes Come From

To make all their waffle fries and hash browns, Chick-fil-A sources all their potatoes from one area: the Columbia River Basin in Washington State. In a short 2015 spotlight on its website, Chick-fil-A quotes Nick Johnson, a potato farmer, as he reflects on the result of his work: "It's rewarding to know we did our part, and that's going to put food in someone's belly."

Despite its name being overshadowed by Idaho, Washington produces 20 percent of all American potatoes and is responsible for the most potatoes produced per acre of land in the world, according to the Washington State Potato Commission. Chick-fil-A has had a business relationship with the area for over 30 years, as a press release for the chain's 2015 expansion into Washington state notes. It bought hundreds of millions of pounds of potatoes from the 23,500 workers in the Washington potato industry in 2014. 

The press release also noted that Chick-fil-A has a similarly exclusive relationship with Crunch Pak, which at the time supplied millions of pounds of Washington apples to Chick-fil-A. But things haven't been quite as fruitful for the state's potato growers recently.

The potato industry has faced difficulties

As with everything, the pandemic had affected the potato industry in Washington. In April, The Spokesman-Review reported that due to the shutdown of restaurants and by extension the demand for potatoes to be prepared in various dishes, one billion pounds of potatoes were sitting in storage without a destination. "That's a lot of potatoes," Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington Potato Commission, remarked. "Every man, woman and child in Washington state would have to eat 200 pounds of potatoes between now and the Fourth of July."

The grim appearance of the situation continued into 2021. Oregon Public Broadcasting covered a fire that broke out in a Washington potato processing plant, a further strike to a crippled industry. Even with customers like Chick-fil-A and McDonald's, the piece notes that demand for takeout french fries cannot use up the supply of spuds wasting away in warehouses. Once again displaying his deadpan assessment of the situation, Voigt commented, "It's literally millions of pounds of potatoes. You can maybe make them into tater tots, but that's a lot of tater tots." Some parts of the industry, like those that exclusively work with Chick-fil-A, may survive, but we will have to see how many potato farmers remain when demand rises once more.