• Friday, January 13, 2012

    Happy about Happy Meals

    Lately, McDonald’s has started a new ad campaign featuring their producers, nice stories about the farmers that produce their foods, including beef, lettuce, and potato. As a kid who grew up in agriculture, I LOVE these new commercials. They really show the people behind our food. Great job, McDonald’s!

    A month or so ago, I posted on facebook that I was going to enjoy an evening meal with my family at our local McDonald’s. I was so surprised to see some of my friends and family’s comments. I got several ‘likes,’ one comment that the McRib was BACK, one “Ick. Don’t do it!” and two comments saying that they’d rather eat raw fish. One person said that they hadn’t been to McDonald’s since their kids were born. Really? What’s so bad about McDonald’s?

    A few years ago, a guy in New York made a documentary called “Super-size Me.” In fact, the post previous to the one saying I was headed to McDonald’s was one saying that I was watching this movie. This guy decided to eat nothing but McDonald’s for thirty days and document what happened to his health. Now, my husband called to invite me to McDonald’s before the movie was half-way over, so I didn’t watch all of it. So, I’m not going to criticize it, yet. I haven’t seen it all. But, I think this movie may be part of why so many people have bad feeling for McDonald’s.

    When I decided to write a post about McDonald’s, I asked my facebook friends what they thought about their food. Several of their answers included greasy and that they only ate their fries. One said it was an evil necessity and one called it over processed. Some said that they craved it. Some said that they let their kids eat there on road trips. Some had things they loved (McRib) and some had bad experiences.

    Let me say first that I don’t think that you should eat at McDonald’s everyday and that you can definitely overeat when you go there. Some of their foods are very high in calories (ok, a lot of their food), and when you eat too many calories, you are going to gain weight.

    I also want to let people know that it’s not BAD food. I feel like fast food places, McDonald’s especially, get a bad rap from the media. I’m all about people being well informed. High calorie meals are just high calorie meals. If you ate 3,000+ calories from foods at home, you would still get fat.

    So, what’s the deal with McDonald’s?
    First, a BigMac is a BigMac is a BigMac. One person pointed out that McDonald’s was consistent. That’s a nice thing about fast food places. You know what your cheeseburger or chicken nuggets or BigMac is going to taste like (good or bad) no matter which McDonald’s you go to. The fries and cheeseburgers are the same in Florida, New York, Arkansas, or California. Once you leave the country, its… well, it’s like a whole other country. The McDonald’s in Germany was NOT like the ones in Arkansas. (It was better.)

    Looking for the facts. So, I checked out the official McDonald’s website and looked up the ingredients and the nutrition facts for some of their food. First of all, McDonald’s has a really cool website. You can select any of the food you can purchase at their stores and see the calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals. You can look at the specific ingredients of each component of your food. Say you want to know the calories of your favorite sandwich, hold the mayo? The website will show you. Do you want to know the ingredients in the ketchup? You can find that, too. You can find potential allergens in each ingredient. You can calculate the nutrition facts for an entire meal.

    It’s really neat. Certain Meat Counter Moms have been guilty of spending a lot of time on it. ;)

    I’m a meat head, so I naturally looked at what I know, burgers and sandwiches. (They contain meat.)

    One of my go-to sandwiches is the simple, 1955-model cheeseburger. Maybe its nostalgia-food, but I love it. 300 calories, 15 grams of high-quality protein. Sometimes, I eat two. (Hey, I’ve never claimed to be the Skinny Mom at the Meat Counter.) The beef patty in my little fav is “100% pure USDA inspected beef; no fillers, no extenders. Prepared with grill seasoning (salt, black pepper).” 100% beef. That means it’s nothing but skeletal meat from cattle. The same beef that makes steaks and roasts, and the same beef that you find in the grocery store. No binders or fillers or non-meat ingredients are added. Only salt and pepper.

    Some of the other burgers are seasoned with more than just salt and pepper, but ALL their hamburgers are 100% beef. Some are specifically ‘Angus’ beef. (That’s another day’s blog post.) Some are larger than others. The Angus patties are 1/3 pound, then there are the quarter-pounders (that’s ¼ pound), and there are the smallest patties used on the hamburgers and cheeseburgers (I couldn’t tell from the website how big they were).

    But is it prepared safely? In McDonald’s, beef patties are cooked on a clam-shell griddle that locks itself closed. There is no way to get the burgers off the grill until they are cooked thoroughly using a specific time/ temperature combination that guarantees they are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill microorganisms, no matter how many people are waiting for them. The griddle just heats the patties in their own juices. No fat or oil is added.

    What about the chicken?

    Most kids really like the chicken nuggets. Vallie enjoys them, but she probably prefers hamburgers. A few years ago, McDonald’s began using exclusively white meat for their nuggets. That means that they cut up pieces of chicken breast; mix it with water, seasoning, salt and phosphates (the salt and phosphates help the chicken pieces stick to each other and form the nugget shapes), batter and bread it. They are fried in Canola oil.

    A four-piece nugget supplies about 190 calories and 9 grams of protein. On their website, you can see the nutrition facts for your favorite dipping sauce, too. Vallie prefers ketchup. I like my nuggets naked.

    I know that there is no way to answer all your questions about McDonald’s in one short blog post. I just want you to know that if you take your kids there every now and then, there is no reason to feel bad about what you are feeding them. 

    There is a whole page of questions and answers about the meat from McDonald’s. There are also Q & A pages about all their foods.

    I challenge you guys to go check out their website and feel free to ask me questions about your favorite foods. If I don’t know the answer, I will pester the people that do.

    If you don’t like McDonald’s, plenty of other fast food places have nice websites, complete with nutrition facts. Go check them out.

    Wendy’s Burger King In N Out Burger Taco Bell Subway Jack in the Box


    1. Personally, about the only time I eat McD's is when I'm on the road and it's either that or a service station chicken strip. Cause Lord know I'll eat any meat before chicken. But my decision not to eat McD's is the flavor. I prefer BK or Hardee's for my burgers, or Subway/Quiznos for less grease. Plus I never eat the fries no matter where I'm at. Guess I'm weird like that, but I'll go for the second serving of beef or main dish before I do fries or sweets. Awesome info!

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    3. New reader, very impressed to see all these facts about McDonald's. The villianization of McDonalds and other fast food restaurants is widespread and unfounded in many cases. The meat sources used are USDA's finest in many cases. Too bad your educated approach to reporting isn't used in newspapers!

    4. Amazing how simple it can be to communicate with people and have them understand a certain topic, you made my day.


    5. Interesting topic here. I was unaware that McDonalds had an ad campaign to introduce their producers. Personally, I think every product sold should have a photo of a farmer on it somewhere to remind people about how much work went into the product. I'd be interested to see how many producers actually supply to McDonalds. I'm guessing it's a big number.

      But the campaign opens up opportunity for parents to teach their kids about where their food comes from as they sit there sharing a meal together.