Seeing the golden arches of McDonald’s can elicit different responses in different people. The burgers are famous around the world for being affordable and tasty, yet for years, critics have propagated rumors about the healthfulness and safety of this fast-food establishment’s fare, blaming America’s obesity epidemic on the Big Mac.
To keep up with changing societal demands, McDonald’s has made huge strides in creating healthy options for patrons – adding salads to the menu and offering fruit and milk as substitutes for fries and soda to kids, as well as listing the ingredients and calories on labels, to name a few examples.
Without a doubt, McDonald’s gets both a lot of praise from happy customers, and a lot of criticism from detractors. The chain has been in the news a lot lately, both good and bad. Here are three news items about McDonald’s that have hit the web recently.
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1. “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About How McDonald’s Food Is Made,” by Hayley Peterson for The Business Insider.
With questions swirling around about where McDonald’s beef comes from, how chicken McNuggets are made, or what the heck is in that Shamrock shake, I was excited to see McDonald’s most recent campaign, focusing on transparency and answering questions about the popular items they serve at the restaurant.
Peterson asks, “Does McDonald's USA import beef from other countries?”
The company responds, “Most of the beef that McDonald's uses in its U.S. restaurants is raised domestically, although we import a small percentage of our 100% beef from suppliers in Australia and New Zealand to supplement our U.S. purchases."
"Are McDonald's burgers fresh or frozen?” she asks.
"The beef is ground, formed into patties and then flash frozen. Flash freezing helps ensure the quality and flavor of our burgers when they are cooked in our restaurants," the company says.
"Does McDonald's meat contain added hormones?” she asks.
"It is a common U.S. cattle industry practice to use FDA-approved growth promotants, like naturally occurring or synthetic hormones, in animals being raised to produce beef," says McDonald’s USA. “McDonald’s USA does not have any requirements beyond meeting all FDA regulations for use of growth promotants in cattle."
The Q&A session also answers questions about how its cheeseburgers are made, if the beef contains “pink slime,” if the beef is grass-fed, and which cuts of beef are used to make the burger patties. I appreciate McDonald’s efforts to be transparent and honest, and wish other companies would follow suit. McDonald’s is unapologetic in using conventionally raised beef in its famous burgers, and I think that’s a true testament to the taste and healthfulness of traditional beef.
2. "McDonald’s Happy Meal Character Scares Social-Media Users” by Leslie Patton for Bloomberg Business Week.
Well, you win some, you lose some. McDonald’s old mascot, Ronald McDonald, has been replaced by a new character named Happy, a box-shaped cartoon character with arms and legs and a big mouth full of teeth. The box is shaped to look like a Happy Meal box, and it’s being used to promote healthier Happy Meals for kids.
However, just like some thought Ronald McDonald was a pretty creepy clown (by the way, Ronald also recently got a modern makeover for the fast-food chain), many are saying that Happy is creeping people out.
According to Patton, “Since debuting on Twitter in an official McDonald’s post, Happy has elicited responses such as ‘I think I’m going to have nightmares,’ and ‘THAT! is scary!’ A video featuring Happy was posted to the McDonald’s Facebook page, drawing additional scorn: ‘Epic fail,’ ‘I regret watching this’ and ‘This makes me crave Burger King.'"
Of the new mascot, McDonald’s explains that Happy, “is about bringing more fun and excitement to kids’ meals, including eating wholesome food choices like low-fat yogurt."
I applaud McDonald’s for striving to make Happy Meals healthier for kids, and hopefully the critics will wind down and kids will end up loving this new cartoon character as a part of their eating experience at the chain.
3. “McDonald's Pressured On Beef Sustainability Plans, Antibiotics,” by Janell Baum for Beef Producer
Antibiotic resistance continues to be a hot topic, and it seems the livestock business is being pegged as the problem. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it doesn’t stop consumers from demanding that meat be antibiotic-free.
McDonald’s has announced plans to serve “verified sustainable beef by 2016. And, according to Baum, “A coalition of consumer groups including the Pew Charitable Trusts recently submitted a letter calling for antibiotic use in livestock to be considered by a group crafting a definition of ‘sustainable beef.’
Releasing a draft of proposed guidelines in March, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef solicited public comment on the language until May 16. Missing in the draft, says the consumer group coalition, was any mention of antibiotic use.
"The degree to which antibiotics are used non-therapeutically to raise cattle today is unsustainable, and the Roundtable’s criteria will be insufficient if they do not address these injudicious practices," a letter from the Pew Charitable Trusts said. "People and animals alike suffer when antibiotics stop working and every stakeholder in medicine and business shares the responsibility for curbing overuse and preserving the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs for as long as possible."
What are your thoughts on these McDonald’s headlines? Share your opinions in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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