The McTruth About McDonalds

The iconic image of the Golden Arches
The iconic image of the Golden Arches

We all know that obesity is a (*ahem*) growing problem in the western civilized world, and it is easy to blame a number of factors on this serious health crisis. Not enough time to fix healthy meals, long work hours and even longer commutes, and who can even think about exercise? In recent years, print and film media have come out with a couple of shocking documentaries about fast food that may make you want to slow down and take a little bit better care of yourself, however! "Super Size Me" and "Fast Food Nation" both take aim at corporate behemoths like McDonald's that pump out french fries and other greasy fare faster than you can say McWaistline. To make matters worse, the prices are so low (consider for example, McDonald's Dollar Menu), that just about anyone can buy their way to artery-clogging heaven.

Suddenly, I'm not very hungry
Suddenly, I'm not very hungry

Is there truth behind the claims of FFN and SSM? Or were they simply based on the hype of similarly greedy individuals hoping to rake in their own big bucks at the expense of corporate America? I had to find out for several reasons. McDonald's was my first job, back in the 1980s. Yes, I got to wear the chocolate brown polyester uniform that warmed in a suspicious manner every time I got too close to the fryer. Now that I think about it, I don't recall fire extinguisher training there... On a positive note, I was very proud of my name tag and the three areas for "medals" (bronze, silver and gold), for cooking, cleaning and cashier service. Plus, as a bonus, we got free meals at every shift. Pies not included.

When I started my family, the very first corporate logo that my son recognized was - you guessed it - McDonald's. And it wasn't even because we took him there for Happy Meals. I'll be honest, Starbucks was a close second, but I'm guessing that in a dark corporate backroom somewhere are two middle managers (one in green/black and one in red/yellow) arm wrestling for the "build to suit" rights for the last vacant lot kitty corner from the gas station on Main Street USA. But I digress...

If we are going to eat this convenient food, or Heaven Forbid, feed it to our children, shouldn't we know the truth about it? O.K. then, let's proceed. But I am going to warn you... only read on if you think you can stomach it.

Fast Food Nation Trailer

Fast McFacts

  • The Golden Arches are more recognizable than the Cross
  • McDonald's is a more famous brand than Coca-Cola
  • There are more playgrounds operated by the company than any other private entity in the United States
  • There are approximately 30,000 Mickey-Ds in the United States, with 2,000 new ones added each year
  • In 1968, there were only 1,000
  • The U.S. has the highest obesity rate of any industrialized nation in the world
  • 44 million adults in the United States have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of over 30; 6 million adults are more than 100 pounds overweight
  • As American fast food restaurants have gone overseas, obesity rates have climbed correspondingly in other countries, such as Great Britain and Japan

On the menu in Japan
On the menu in Japan

Fast Food Nation: The Book

If you read this book, you may not ever eat fast food again. I am not exaggerating. It was published in 2001 by an investigative journalist, Eric Schlosser, with the primary aim of uncovering the influence of the United States fast food industry, both locally and abroad. Among the most disturbing revelations in the book are those concerning slaughterhouses and meat packing. For example, Schlosser discusses the rendering of dead pigs, horses and chicken manure into cattle feed, which led to Mad Cow Disease in some cases. In another chapter, the description of the odors emanating from the slaughterhouse may almost guarantee that you will never eat hamburger again: rotten eggs, burnt hair and a "greasy smell." I will not describe the actual slaughter of the cattle. But suffice it to say, it is not a clean, nor pretty job.

Even without these horrific tales, I think we can admit that we know, deep down that this stuff is not good for us. So why do we keep coming back? Well, that too, is discussed in the book. Way back at the beginning of McDonald's time (1950s), Ray Kroc and his company decided to implement a Disneyland-type marketing theme for the restaurants. They put Ronald McDonald at the forefront, and added his friends to attract children, parents and caregivers. The thought was that not only would it create brand loyalty, but also - eventually - nostalgia. So, maybe on some subconscious level we are still digging the Fry Guys.

I'm feeling a little duped. Are you?

Original McDonald's Commercial

If you like reading Fast Food Nation, then you should definitely watch the movie based (loosely) on the book with the same name, starring Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, and Bruce Willis. Released in 2006, it is a bit of a sleeper, but definitely entertaining and thought-provoking. It is not as edgy as the book (after all, they could not possibly create a family film with slaughterhouse scenes), but since it is told from the perspective of the industry, as opposed to a documentary, there is some unintentional humor.

Golden, crispy fries to supersize your body!
Golden, crispy fries to supersize your body!

Super Size Me!

Not too long after Fast Food Nation was published, independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock undertook a famous experiment in 2004. For 30 days, he subsisted on nothing but McDonald's food, and filmed his entire experience in so doing. Spurlock ate there 3 times a day, and when asked if he wanted to "supersize" his meal, he would always say yes. He estimates that he consumed more than 5,000 calories a day!

In a mere 30 days, Spurlock gained 24 pounds, lost his sense of humor, and damaged his liver. Oh, and he had trouble in bed. While he quickly put the weight on, it took him over a year to take it off. And Spurlock was a healthy 185 pounds before he decided to undergo the "Super Size Me" investigation.

His work was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, and Spurlock has done additional short films demonstrating the ill effects of fast food (see video below). It is a bit scary when, after 10 weeks, french fries do not even start to decompose. What are they made of? Plastic?

A bit of good news - the Super Size option was removed by McDonald's not too long after the film was released to record earnings for a documentary. Not without significant grumbling and finger-pointing, however.

Super Size Me: Fast Food Test

Now THIS is fast food!
Now THIS is fast food!
You can stay quenched all day long
You can stay quenched all day long

Healthier Options Exist

Yes, it is true that you can order a salad at McDonald's or at other fast food restaurants. Your kids could also get apples instead of fries with their deep fried chicken nuggets (whatever those are). The bottom line is that if you are going under the Golden Arches, you are probably not looking for something organic. Its all about eating it with one hand, while driving or otherwise running around, on the go.

If you are a busy mom or a student, think ahead and pack your own fresh fruit. Apples and bananas can also be conveniently packed and consumed. Sandwiches are easy to prepare the night before a busy day, and you know what is going on them - particularly if you are choosing nice, fresh vegetables!

One of the simplest steps to take to ward off extra pounds is to stay away from sugary soft drinks. Bottled water is convenient, but also expensive and unnecessary. Purchase a safe plastic container that can be reused and washed, and fill it up yourself with cold tap water and ice.

After reading the book and watching the films, I am convinced more than ever that fast food simply is not worth the convenience for me or my family. Perhaps more importantly, it is not worth the risk!

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Comments 51 comments

amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

There is no doubt in my mind that this is all true! When I saw SSM, I was completely sickened by the way his health rapidly deteriorated. It was pretty sickening all around. :) I am currently following a vegan diet, so McD's is totally off limit for me. Fruit and greens are the way to go!

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Amy Jane, that sounds like the way to go for me! We are not vegan or vegetarian, but with what I read in the book, it makes me want to swear off red meat for good. We have started by taking McDonalds off the menu though! Thanks for the comment.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Very well written New Day. Well researched, well paced, a joy to read. As for the argument: I didn't need convincing anyway. I just wouldn't trust a company that targets kids in such a blatant way.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

CJStone, thank you. I was shocked and horrified at what I read in Fast Food Nation. Of course, I could have added more "behind the scenes" information about working at McDonald's in the 1980s (it was pretty unsanitary), but the facts about getting the food to the franchise stores in the first place are startling. Thanks for reading and commenting - New Day

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

Good hub-- Hope it makes some people think.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Thank you Rochelle. I do too. It doesn't take much effort to make healthier choices. I appreciate the comment!

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

I really like this hub and I admit my weight went up a lot by drinking soda over the last several years.  I do not eat a lot of meat so McDonald's was never my favorite, but I like how you point out people can get salads there and the salads are decent.  When I do eat out I actually prefer Del Taco and get a Green Burito or Chicken Burito, which it me is a more healthy alternative to McDonalds.  However, I try to eat at home or pack food more often and Subway is also another good option.  Now I just need to try and stop drinking soda for good.

I tried to watch Fast Food Nation, but I got really grossed out when the illegal immigrant men were forced to work in a slaughter house. I was afraid of what would happen to them there. I should finish watching it one of these days. 

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Hi Sweetie Pie, thanks for the great comment. I am a Subway fan, and I also love Del Taco. My kids, however, beg for McDonald's and it is hard to try to keep them away. I read Fast Food Nation and was so disgusted, I never wanted to eat beef again. I do eat chicken and fish, occassionally pork, but I'll bet those conditions are bad too. I drink way too much diet soda - ever since I was a teen. When I go to work, I always pack my own lunch and I think it saves me a lot of money. What I need to do is drink more water. As far as watching Fast Food Nation.... I may become a vegetarian if I actually saw the things I read in the book. If you finish it, let me know. LOL

jimcrowthers profile image

jimcrowthers 8 years ago from Port Charlotte

After just finishing a left-over prime rib steak, and a couple of pieces of apple pie, this hub makes me want to huff it down to Mickey D's, and get at least one of everything off the menu!

I remember, as a kid, getting an apple pie with the frosting on top. Come to find out, the "frosting" was the lard from the grease fryer (they weren't always baked) that coagulated around pie, giving it a white coating. Mmmm!

In McDonald's defense, when they first started, I'm sure they didn't know the food they offered was all that bad for you, and that most people could only afford to go maybe once or twice a month (or maybe I was just poor?) That's what the fast food restaurants are good for--once or twice a month as a "treat". I'll admit, they're relatively cheap now, and the temptation to get "food" for the entire family without having to cook is very tempting!

Great hub!

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

LOL - Jim! Hey, I am not out to convert anyone at all. I am not a vegetarian (although I have had second thoughts about red meat after reading FFN). Like you, when I was growing up, Mickey D's was a rare treat. Once a month tops. And I don't think Ray Kroc was evil, either. But now-adays... they can be responsible and I do tip my hat to them for taking the Super Size option off the menu after Super Size Me aired (with a little pressure, too). Thanks for the comment!

Annette Rozen profile image

Annette Rozen 8 years ago

geat hub, ive actually only eaten at mc donalds once in my life, i believe, and that was quite enough for me. Greasy fried food never quite seemed to appeal to me. I think its cuz my mother repeatedly warned me of the evils. She used to make us her own oven grilled hamburgers at home. Nothing beats homemade.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Annette, that is great! And you will be so much healthier for it! Homemade (anything) is so much better for you. First, you actually know what is going into your meal and second, you can control the spices, amount of sauce, etc. Thank you for the comment.

jimcrowthers profile image

jimcrowthers 8 years ago from Port Charlotte

My dad used to make us oven-broiled burgers, but I think he did it for the convenience more than the healthful aspects of oven grilling. He told me stories of eating lard sandwiches as a kid, and not too long ago, watching him eat peanut butter and butter sandwiches (as if one "butter" wasn't enough). It was his favorite food group! The heart attack kindof put a kibosh on those types of things.

Did you hear about the guy who lost 80 pounds by only eating at McDonald's and Starbucks? Of course, he ate nothing but their salads, wraps, apple wedges (sans la caramel), and Starbucks' Strong Black Coffe.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Hi Jim, I did just read about that guy that lost 80 pounds on the McDonald's diet. There probably is a way, but 95% of the people that eat there are for the fries and not the apple wedges. I think these convenience foods can be appropriate in very small doses, just not on a daily basis, or 3-4 times a week. A rare treat as it was when I was growing up. And, as for the butter-peanut butter sandwiches, my dad eats those too! Amazing!

dayzeebee profile image

dayzeebee 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

thank you for this informative hub. i'm now more determined to watch my diet.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Thank you dayzeebee! Your body will thank you for it. :-) Best, New Day.

compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Ohh mann, im sorry to say this, but this hub has given me an appetite and for once in my life, NOT a Mc Donalds!!

Very interesting stuff! also the fact that The Golden Arches is more recognizable than the Cross is very worrying!!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Isn't that an amazing fact?  Sad!

CJStone profile image

CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

Hello New Day, so I have been over here before. I must have forgotten to join your fan club. I like these kinds of "campaigning" hubs, with a bit of (scuse the pun) "meat" in them.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Thousand Island dressing on a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, and you have a Big Mac (with the bun of course). Not rocket science to make these at home with hamburger from a store you trust. Alas, I grew up in beef country, so was wired for red meat from birth, but don't eat much of it now. Prefer Subway (any non-beef sub). Usually take lunch from home. But on days I hit the snooze button one too may times and have to go out, SW isn't an option, so off to McD's I go (for a Big Mac, of course, but no fries), taking comfort in the fact that once a month most likely won't kill me.

Very informative hub.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

JamaGenee - I am old enough to remember the jingle ad for Big Macs back in the 1980s: "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, all on a sesame seed bun!" I'm with you on the Subway approach. They have a great new crusted turkey sub right now. mmmmm - getting hungry. Thanks for the comment. New Day

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

CJ - thanks! Yes, there is some "meat" to this Hub, for sure. LOL!

monitor profile image

monitor 8 years ago from The world.

I saw the title and just had to investigate your hub, New Day. This is a great message for people who maybe aren't aware of the health dangers of fast food chains like McDonald's (or choose to ignore them). That really is scary that someone is able to put on 24 pounds in 30 days! That's nearly a pound a day! Quite scary.

Great hub!

Your fan.


New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Hello Monitor! And thank you for the comment. We were out of town for a week, so I am just getting back through my comments, etc. I definitely agree that fast food will put the pounds on fast! People don't realize that they are flavored to make you want to eat more and more and before long, you too can be supersized. Your new fan, New Day

Princessa profile image

Princessa 8 years ago from France

Excellent article. I have always wondered about the "magic" of Mac Donalds. Thankfully, where we are there is no a MacDonalds nearby but every time we go to the city and pass by one, my children ask for a "macdo" as it is known in France. I like to think that it is for the play area rather than the food!

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Thank you Princessa! That is wonderful your family lives far away from the golden arches - and rare (at least in the US). Here you are more apt to find a McDonald's than a gas station in a remote area. LOL. Thanks for the comment. New Day

khadilkarprakash profile image

khadilkarprakash 8 years ago from India

In 24- years of sober living, the spiritual awakening was growing. The Fast Food and high calori-diet. were immidiate concerns. I am away on one day at a time basis, from these stuff. ONE famous writer in India who was also a T.V. personality, started discussion shows on all types of consumerism. The Corporate India has only one goal asking Citizens to desire more and more and consume more and more. "This heart demands more" is a very popular slogan from Shah Rukh Khan also known as King Khan.

You are on the right track. Doing His will rather Corporate Worlds.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Thank you so much for your excellent comment and wisdom. I agree with your advice, and I hope more people read it as well. Your fan, New Day.

jim10 profile image

jim10 8 years ago from ma

Honestly you get what you pay for. The saddest thing about McDonalds and many other fast food chains is that most of the little money you spend is going toward the packaging. I'm not sure, but I highly doubt the quality could have been this bad when it first started. The added processing and trying to make more profit by giving the customer less is what messed everything up.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Hi Jim, I really agree! Its a shame that such an original American icon has gone down the tubes so much. Thanks for the comment!

Nicole Winter profile image

Nicole Winter 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

I don't think parents realize how much power they have over their children when they go to McDonald's. I have one word for you: Happy Meal. My daughter knows when she gets to go to McDonald's that if she doesn't drink her milk & eat her apples she doesn't get her *toy* ... (Which when you're buying a Happy Meal, I think that's probably 90% of the cost.) As for other adults... *sigh* They started offering healthier alternatives. It's not their fault no one wants to eat them. We live in a society geared towards instant gratification. It's the consumer's fault, not McDonalds. Yes, poor people will always be attracted to their $1 menu, for under four dollars I managed to keep myself full most the entire day not too long ago when I was out doing Mystery Shops. I'd like to see another place that sells meals do that.

New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States Author

Nicole, that is indeed the tragedy. The recent news about the banning of fast food restaurants in areas of LA shows how insidious the problem is. Sure, there are healthy alternatives, but many people do not choose them. Walk in and smell the fat of the fries. Who wants a salad or apple slices then? And you are right - fast, cheap, tasty meals will always win out. Thanks so much for the comment. New Day

megan 8 years ago

PEOPLE! if you have read this, you would know not to eat mcdonalds, then why continue?!?

me 7 years ago

i'm hungry for mcdonalds now... this didn't scar me at all lol..

me 7 years ago

it is a great article tho . gj

turbo 7 years ago

i have been eating mcdonalds everyday for this school year which is almost over but what's different is i work it off i have actually llost thirty pounds since september last year so yea nothing is wrong with it

John Z profile image

John Z 7 years ago from Midwest

I will never eat a McDonalds french fry again!

uogold 7 years ago

Mcdonalds sucks!

Buy UO gold cheapest online:

Ruby J Jones profile image

Ruby J Jones 7 years ago

Great hub. Though I love Mcdonalds fries I also know my limit. Which is what goes wrong nowdays. We all know that fast food is not great for us in abundance. But neither is pretty much anything we eat. I think that if people stop looking for someone else to blame for their weight and health issues and take the responsibility themselves the world would be a happier place. I never watched teh SSM documentry as I thought it was just stupid as to what he was doing! People don't it there 3 times a day everyday. though I feel the big business in this country runs amok, I also feel that it is because we have let them. And now that it has gone too far we must put blame elsewhere instead of where it stands. Case in point: The women who sued Mcdonalds for spilling her coffee and won! Anyway, I am rambling. But you have some very good points in your hub and hopefully will open some readers eyes.

justice 7 years ago

this is disgusting. Did u know McDonalds puts worms in there burgers? and their icecubes r as dirty as toilet water

Tyler Deardon profile image

Tyler Deardon 7 years ago

The last guy who posted ^^^

Wow, that's sick man.

Casey M 6 years ago

Wow. That is really gross. I thought something was "off" with their icecubes! Anyway, when I was little, we went to McDonalds 2 times a year: once we had to get a salad or fish burger because my mother is vegetarian and the second time I would always get a big mac. They don't fill me up, in fact, they leave a gross feeling in my mouth and stomach afterwards. I don't eat at McDonalds anymore, it just grosses me out. Homemade is definitely the way to go with burgers, and special sauce?! All it is is just thousand island dressing (mayo, ketchup, sweet n sour, and mustard mixed). This hub (or whatever it is called) is amazing and has mad me think twice about eating at fast food restaurants. Subway is better anyway. I'm only a young teenager and I hope changing the "fastfood" part of my life will keep me from becoming obese as I get older. Thanks for the awareness and great job. :D

bush 6 years ago

so just drop the bomb..say daisy cutter

anonymous 6 years ago

I knew pretty much all this stuff that you wrote... but I TOTALLY agree with everything you said! Mickey D's and all fast food is a disgrace! There's plenty of other options to eat, which you adressed. I just want to say thank you for posting this so hopefully everyone can see what everyone here has seen! :)

Jess 6 years ago

Oh goodness people! Like, really? You think if McDonalds put worms in their burgers, the FDA would let them sell burgers? Let's not go OVERboard. Yes, if you eat too much fast food, you'll gain weight. Being fat causes health problems. How about something I'd like to call self-control? Pointing the finger at fast food resturants isn't going to help anyone lose weight. How about cooking healthier food at home? If you don't want McDonalds, YOU DON'T HAVe TO. Duhh. Hell, eat at Subway. Don't sit around playing the blame game via comments and, idk, go take a walk.

HuBOOM 6 years ago

So what I got from this is, let us all not choose what we eat, let this fuck tell us what to and not to eat because some she-male wants to pump fear into our veins. I also got that we should feel for the animals so we don't have to slaughter them. OH PUH-LEASE, put on your man shorts you dumb liberal. This article is crap, and certainly will NOT phase me from eating at McDonalds or ANY fast food place. Besides, back in the 1980s, every Friday, my mother would get me McDonalds for lunch AND dinner, because one, I was an only child, and two, back then, missing days did not count. In fact, I had 56 absences one school year in 1986 from all the Fridays I enjoyed at home watching Fraggle Rock and eating McDonalds. Thats 36(THIRTY-SIX) DAYS A SCHOOL YEAR EATING MCDONALDS. And, I am perfectly healthy, as I got cleared on my Physical last month. So please, find something else to pump into America's gullible blood, please, because you are not phasing me, or any other SANE PERSON from eating Mickey Dees, or any FF place. Good day :D

CC 6 years ago

Can't wack a McDonalds Bigmac or the strawberry milkshake. The food is fine in moderation. Get over it you sad fucking low lifes. Oh wait did I say *Moderation* Yes, I did. Is this piece of BS targeted at heavy users or normal active people? Because Yeaaaah guess what? Another thing, it isn't all unhealthy material there. YOU ACTUALLY CAN ORDER A SALAD. YOU CAN BUY MILK/WATER and THE BURGERS ARE MADE FROM 100% BEEF!

This is misleading and should be removed.

tashie 5 years ago

im still at school, and for an assignment im choosing "the shocking truth about maccas" iv only been researching for a couple of day and im put off for life

AA 5 years ago

well, CC, the whole point of this site is to make people aware, because the whole point is nobody DOES eat this food in moderation. your a sore alien tryi9ng to find things to comploain and swear about.

4ever_dreaming 5 years ago

I watched SSM during my Health class a little while ago, although prior to it I *had* already become a vegetarian (rights of animals and all(: ) but it really did put things in perspective for me. Though I had already sworn off fast food (if my family went, salad for me, no chicken!), it made it a lot easier for me to refuse(: Very informative, nive hub!



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