The Golden Arches, Mickey-D’s, Macca’s, or Mick-dicks. Whatever you would like to call it, they all refer to the same money making machine, McDonalds. Selling more than 75 hamburgers every second, McDonalds serves anywhere from 62 to 68 million million customers each and every day, more than the population of Great Britain and about 1% of the world’s population (Schlosser, 2004).
Since its inception, McDonalds has not only grown into a global money making super power, but an extremely controversial culture and lifestyle that has expanded it’s dark and secretive menu of unusual and very controversial preparation methods and lack of quality, healthful food throughout the world.
McDonalds was born in 1940 when brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald opened up a restaurant in San Bernardino, California, which quickly became a popular, and very profitable, teen hangout.
After serving about 25 different items in their restaurant, the McDonald brothers closed their original restaurant and reopened a restaurant that only served hamburgers, milkshakes and french fries.
Mac and Dick turned their kitchen into a hamburger assembly line. The efficiency of the assembly line allowed the brothers to sell their burgers at a cheap price of only 15 cents and made them extremely popular, making the company a giant profit. In 1961, a man by the name of Ray Kroc bought out the McDonalds brothers and began building what would become the most successful fast food operation in the world.
A milk shake machine salesman, Ray Kroc bought McDonald’s from the Donald brothers and made the burger joint into a business whose foundation was built upon conformity and uniformity. “Kroc … believed fervently in the ethic of mass production” (Schlosser, 2004). Influenced by this mass production ethic, McDonald’s developed new and uniform production methods like using frozen beef patties, instead of fresh ground beef, and creating a genetically-modified potato as opposed to using locally grown produce to make sure that all McDonald’s fries and hamburgers have the same uniform taste.
In 1961 Ray Kroc decided that unlike the previous owners of McDonalds, he did not want to keep McDonalds as a local restaurant and thought that a national company would fit in with where America was heading. He began opening up more locations across the country, and by 1965, there were more than 700 separate locations across the United States (McDonalds Corporation, 2006). This expansion eventually led to franchising the trademarks of the business to private owners who pay royalties to the company.
McDonalds is a for-profit business that supplies their product in order to sell it to the general public and make profit. McDonalds alone is the 90th largest economy in the world, making over 27 billion dollars in revenue throughout the year. The 8. 7 billion dollars in franchises alone that it makes, already make McDonalds richer than Mongolia. “McDonald’s Corporation is the world’s largest foodservice retailing chain. The company is known for its burgers and fries which it sells through 31,000 fast-food restaurants in over 119 countries” (McDonald’s Corporation, 2006).
Over the years McDonalds has created a rich culture that applies to everything that McDonalds is and does. McDonalds culture can be seen in its bright and happy decor, which often includes playgrounds for young children and is always full of bright red, green and yellow colors. It can be seen in McDonald’s many promotions such as its annual monopoly giveaway, where McDonalds gives away millions of dollars of free food and prizes to lucky customers, or happy meal toy giveaways, where all children buying a happy meal receive a toy with it.
The culture of McDonalds can also be seen in the countless advertisements starring Ronald McDonald, the companies mascot, which try to show McDonalds to be a cheap, wholesome food supplier for on-the-go, active lifestyles and young families. This culture is focused around the feeling of McDonalds being a happy place that everyone should want to be at and eat at as much as they possibly can, which McDonalds gives them the ability to do through its cheap value and dollar menus.
Not many other restaurants can say that they can fill up your family of four for under ten dollars. By creating a cheap product and enjoyable environment that is homogenous, McDonalds has been able to establish comfort and familiarity with its customers. With over 31,000 nearly identical McDonald’s restaurants located throughout the world, many people find McDonalds to be a refreshing site because it is a familiar place amongst unfamiliar places.
Although McDonald’s makes the effort to support children with life threatening illnesses through its Ronald McDonald house charity across the United States, the quality of the food that they offer along with endless refills of soda and other sugary beverages undoubtedly contributes to the obesity and health pandemic sweeping the United States, and makes the happy go lucky McDonald’s culture a very controversial one. Unlike fresh beef hamburgers that can be bought at a butcher shop, “a typical fast-food hamburger patty contains meat from more than one thousand different cattle, raised in as many as five countries” (Schlosser, 2004).
McDonalds also uses a special genetically modified type of potato for all of its potato products. From a public health point of view these facts can be extremely bad for a few major reasons. For one, the highly processed meats and other ingredients make the food very fat and calorically rich. Seven of the chain’s meals on the menu contain 50% more fat then the US Department of Agriculture recommends the average adult consume for an entire day.
Meals such as the big breakfast with hotcakes, double quarter pounder with cheese, big breakfast, angus mushroom swiss burger, angus deluxe, angus bacon and cheese, sausage biscuit with egg, sausage egg and cheese McGriddle, and premium crispy chicken selects, contain over half the fat and calories recommended daily by the USDA (USDA, 2010). The 20 piece chicken mcnuggets contain over 90% of the daily recommended fat intake of the average adult. Mcdonalds is also noted to have excessively high sodium levels do to the amount of preservatives put into all of its products.
Almost half of the items on the McDonalds menu contain more than 50% of the USDA’s recommended sodium intake for an entire day. Items such as the angus burger, chicken mcnuggets, and chicken mcbites each contain about 80% of the daily recommended sodium intake for an average adult. These mixed, preserved and modified ingredients that are used by McDonalds can also become easily contaminated and because of the large scale of mixing different farms in their product, these contaminated products are then shipped all over the world and fed to tens of millions of people every day.
The mixing process also does not allow contaminated items to be easily traced back to their source. Over the past few decades, an increasing number of people have begun to speak out against McDonald’s through the media and lawsuits. In 2003 a lawsuit was filed in the United States alleging that food from McDonalds restaurants was responsible for making people obese. The two obese plaintiffs were more than 80 pounds over weight and claimed that McDonald’s advertisements were intended on convincing people to eat at McDonalds for every meal of the day, a decision that most would assume to be extremely unhealthy.
Although the lawsuit was eventually thrown out by a judge, it sparked a lot of media attention and conversation as to what fast food cultures like McDonalds were doing to our society. Morgan Spurlock has become famous through his documentary Supersize Me, where he went an entire month of eating nothing at all but McDonalds for every single meal of the day. The effects on his body were disastrous, and he went from being a perfectly healthy adult male, to being borderline in every major health risk category such as high blood pressure, overweight, high cholesterol, and more.
Due to publicity and lawsuits of this nature, public opinion of McDonalds is beginning to turn from a bargain and convenient restaurant, to a place where heart attacks and obesity are served on a plate. The illusion created by McDonalds of bargain prices and convenience for everyone is beginning to wear off as people learn more and more about what really goes into a McDonalds meal. The goal of Morgan Spurlock and other anti-McDonalds activists is to spread awareness of real costs of doing business with the corporation.
After countless media attacks, documentaries and lawsuits, McDonalds has now begun to go through a phase of reform in order to try and change the culture and perception of McDonalds. In 2004, McDonalds began offering salads and other “healthier,” eating options on their menu. This was seen as McDonalds listening to increasing public for healthier options on the menu. Although to most these changes of offering salads and milk and grilled chicken wraps might seem a lot healthier, they are still a McDonalds product; cheap, non-quality, and yes, still unhealthy.
Looking at the McDonalds nutritional information, which is required to be put up on a poster in every operating McDonalds restaurant, you can see that the Premium Caesar salad with crispy chicken contains 17 grams of fat, and the Premium Southwest Salad with crispy chicken and the Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with crispy chicken both contain 20 grams of fat. To add to that, the salad dressings offered also contain high amounts of fat. If you want to add Creamy Southwest Dressing, it’s 6 more grams of fat. The Ranch Dressing ads 15 grams of fat, and the Creamy Caesar Dressing has 18 grams of fat.
So, if you get a salad with crispy chicken and salad dressing, you could be intaking about 35 grams of fat – the fat equivalent of 4 plain hamburgers. Over the past forty years, McDonald’s has been transformed from a local burger place that served fresh hamburgers, into a huge multi-national corporation that uses mass production methods to make and sell their product. One of the effects of it’s rapid expansion has been a number of books, articles, and documentaries showing practices that are deemed unethical by the general public.
Due to the massive amount of publicity that McDonalds and other fast food restaurants have attracted, there are many things that are now being done to control the ethical problems raised such as laws, legal action, and public pressure building up form anti-McDonalds activists. Since its inception, McDonalds has been groomed to make its owners a lot of money by keeping prices as low as possible, product as cheap as possible, and service as efficient as can be.
Their lack of quality food and questionable preparation methods for ingredients and high fat and caloric meals have begun to cause a change in public perception and culture of the company. Works Cited McDonald’s apple pies found to contain banned food coloring in Japan. (2006, September 23). MarketLine Business. Verburg, Peter. “Mcdonald Vs. Mcdonald’s. ” Alberta Report / Newsmagazine 21. 8 (1994): 15. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. McDonald’s resolves french fry dispute. (2002, June 6). MarketLine Business. Old McDonald’s has some smarts in China. (2006, December 11). Chicago Sun Times.
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