The McDonald’s Cheeseburger Experiment

September 12, 2012   31 Comments

Back in 2010, I started playing with McDonald’s burgers to attempt an illustration of the difference between a homemade burger and one you could purchase at your local chain.

McDonalds Meat Marketing

After 11 days of sitting at room temperature in a Ziploc bag, I took a photo of the 2 burgers (above). Obviously, the one on the right is the homemade burger and the one on the left is the McDonald's cheeseburger.

This post generated an enormous amount of discussion and traffic because it was so eye catching. The best part for me was that a Stanford University scientist took time out of his busy day to talk about my findings see: Stanford University Scientist Comments On Burger Experiment.

Many of you have seen it so why am I bringing this up again? McDonald’s has caught my eye with a new marketing campaign devoted to explaining the quality of it’s ingredients.

This cowboy is so cute, you just want to pinch his cheeks:

Perhaps there are small farmers all around the country that were making a great life out of selling meat to McDonald’s. My problem is that this advertisement does not reflect what others have reported about where the meat comes from.

Michael Pollan’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, reveals how cows are fed corn in massive feedlots called concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs. The cows graze until they reach 650 pounds and then they get fed corn by products in a large pens. See:

The photo above is a feedlot from The Oklahoma Farm Report. Did you notice how different the image is from the McDonald’s commercial? Can you smell the Oklahoma photo?

I’m not saying that McDonald’s is lying. I believe this rancher is herding his cattle until they are 650 pounds and he sends them to a CAFO. McDonald’s is merely selecting a portion of the meat story to make it seem much more kind, sweet, and downright country.

No matter how they market it, they are still selling highly processed food. You can't just look at the sweet farmer and forget all the steps that it takes to get McDonald's food into their paper bags.

Please share your thoughts on McDonald’s marketing campaign.

Other posts you might like:


McDonald's Burger Left for Two Weeks

After 11 days of sitting at room temperature in a Ziploc bag, this is the photo of the 2 burgers. Obviously, the one on the right is the homemade burger and the one on the left is the McDonald's cheeseburger....


Stanford University Scientist Comments On Burger Experiment

Last week's post on the rotting cheeseburger has created controversy here on Snack-Girl. If you didn't see it check it out here McDonald's Burger Left for Two Weeks....

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 31 )

wow.. so extremely deceptive (aka: A+ advertising)!! can i assume my chicken nuggets were wandering around on that same family farm also!?!? it's just ridiculous how companies play to the the issues. it's sad how many people may think: free range grass fed cows from a family farm? mcdonald's isn't so bad after all! ...thank god i'm not one of them! thanks for the info :)

One should never, ever eat a fast food hamburger--McDonalds, Burger King, etc. It doesn't matter. Even if the cows were raised in a sterile environment, this type of food is simply and undeniably of poor quality. Watch Morgan's Spurlock's "Supersize Me" for details.

My husband wanted McDonald's for his birthday so I couldn't say no. It is a stretch to call that overly processed sodium laden stuff food.

Everyone should read Michael Pollan books. Gives you good reason to eat well.

While this is great information for beef that's used in McDonald's hamburgers, I contend that the CAFO-related (and other) problems are nearly ubiquitous for all meat -- beef, pork, poultry, fish...

In this 7-minute summary video, Melanie Joy introduces (IMO) calm, rational, and reasonable explanations as to why we're culturally conditioned to eat some animals and not others:

Further, she explains how the only free choices (about whether we eat animals or not) must be aware, informed choices or they're not truly free choices.

(To be clear, my comment is NOT intended to be a "You're Doing It Wrong" message, rather a "We all need to know what we're eating to decide if it's truly right for each of us" one. For me, the conclusion was that is *wasn't* right for me (and I stopped eating all meat).)

to be honest when I go to mcdonalds or taco bell or whatever I would much rather the burger meat and bun that doesn't spoil. I would rather take the preservatives than the chance at spoiled meat

Having grown up on a farm I know a lot about the practices of the the meat industry. (we had horses) Two ways that I show my disgust for the whole thing are: 1) My husband and I NEVER eat at a chain restaurant and 2) We never invest in any stocks that are linked to the fast food industry. Hit 'em where it hurts!

I haven't eaten meat in over 20 years now, and try not to be one of those "uppity vegetarians" about other people's food choices, but I honestly cannot understand how anyone can justify torturing animals like this and the other horrific treatment of animals in the "conventional" food system. That picture of those poor cows makes me so, so angry.

PLEASE if you eat meat, buy from a small local farmer who doesn't abuse animals.

This post helps me validate why I spend hours and hours researching and educating myself. I no longer rely on marketing campaigns to tell me what's "good". It's changed my life.

I think the most deceptive part of this commercial is the image of the ranchers eating Mickey D's off the tailgate. I bet there isn't a golden arches within 30 miles of that farm!

@Stacie and whoever else says buy from someone who doesn't abuse animals if you eat meat. I'm confused as to how one kills an animal to eat it without abusing it. So if I shoot it without it knowing it is going to happen then thats not abuse. I don't get the logic. P.S I love eating meat

I heard about this before, and ever since then I made a promise to myself to stay far away from McDonald's, and to be honest I've kept that promise. I wonder if it's the same at Wendy's and Burger king. I generally stay away from fast-food chains as such, but sometimes on a road trip you don't always have a choice, and Wendy's was always my first pick since I assume the "grilled chicken" on their salads is infact real chicken...

I would like to second Stacie's encouragement about buying your meat from local farmers. While I am a flexitarian and could easily move over to being a vegetarian, my guys still like their meat. And, that's okay.

BUT ... I buy my meat from local farmers. In fact, the farmer who I buy my husband's beloved chicken from has the facilities, licenses, etc. to process her own chickens from start to finish. If more of us went out and supported our local farmers -- and trust me I really don't pay that much more than purchasing the ag industry meat from the grocery store -- then there would be more local/family farms as a viable sector of agriculture.

I feel bad for the cowboy in the video because while he may be doing it the right way, the CAFOs and McDonald's undoes all of that and turns it into a product that is not fit for consumption. We buy local, 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef that is raised the hard way, but the right way.

Interestingly, Astoria, IL, which is where this is from, is 30 miles from my house. I had no idea that any local farmers supplied beef to McDonalds. In west central IL, CAFOs are a love it or hate it business. I firmly believe in buying local meat as much as I can, but I know some CAFO owners who deeply care for their animals, so while some are only in it for the money you can't make a blanket statement that all CAFOs are bad--not true.

Everytime I see one of these photos of fast food that doesn't rot like fresh food, I shake my head. I think they are misleading. Now,I am not a nutritionist, but I am an RN and I certainly understand the benefits of keeping you diet choices from the fruit, veggie, lean meats, whole grain and low fat dairy groups. However, an occasional fast food burger is not going to stay in your body poisoning you for years to come! It moves through your digestive tract and exits in the same fashion as all the other food you eat. Let's stop scaring people by making them think they are doomed to a horrible death by cancer because they ate a big Mac at some point in their life and start educating them in all the healthy delicious ways to choose and prepare affordable fresh foods do they don't want to go to fast food as much.

Don't believe the hype. It IS possible to produce safe, good tasting meat/milk from humanely raise animals and make a profit/living. Many big companies are just to lazy or greedy to do what's best for people, animals and the planet. Case in point: There's a great article from last week's New York Times about a farmer who names his cows--every one of them. He pasture raises happy, healthy dairy cows without confining them, giving them routine antibiotics and he still makes a good living. He also turns cows that are to old to produce milk to meat slaughter--a few favorites he puts out to pasture at another farm.

I remember years ago, driving through California's central valley with a load of hay on a 100+ degree day. We stopped and got a McDonalds milkshake. I finished half of mine and put the cup on the floor of the truck. Without airconditioning, the milkshake quickly heated up to the ambient temperature of the cab - over 100 deg. It never got thin or runny - stayed nice and thick. Even as a late teen, I sensed this was just wrong, and never had another McD's shake.

I am not proud to admit that I purchased a cheese burger happy meal for my 2 yr old for the first time this summer. (we were on our way home from a long road trip, and I just needed something in our tummies)

What I am so proud to say is that my son opened up his hamburger, pulled off the "cheese" and "pickles", pointed to the patty and said "what's this?". I told him it's a hamburger, and he said "no mommy. not a humburger". I could not have been more proud of my boy who is more used to eating homemade than processed.

WoW an eye opener, thank you, for this, this is also goes with Wendy's and Burger King no?

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