In recent days I’ve authored a couple of short list about what I love and hate about McDonald’s. In response I’ve received a couple of emails from readers hinting at what may be in some of McDonald’s offerings. The first reported how the cult followed McRib sandwich is manufactured; yes, manufactured, not grown. A second email informed me, much to my wide-eyed glee, that McDonald’s was the world’s largest purchaser of cow eyeballs.
Recalling how there was once an unfounded claim that McDonald’s beef contained earthworms I decided I should check things out before I go worrying or writing about things. It turns out, though, what was reported about the origins and content of the McRib was pretty much on target. The McRib is a classic example of a food category called, restructured meat.
Essentially, restructured meat is just what it implies. Meat is broken down into teensy-weensy parts and then restructured to resemble whatever mold you pack the resulting goo into. In the case of the McRib, pork hearts, tripe, tongue, scalded stomachs, and other lesser cuts of pork are broken down and their “salt-soluble” proteins extracted. Once extracted these proteins can be restructured to resemble whatever cut of pork one desires. It is a means to turn animal parts not acceptable to the American palate into something that simply, looks like what we do like to eat.
As everyone knows, McDonald’s does not keep the McRib on their regular menu. The reason has to do with the price of pork trimmings rather than waning demand for the sandwich. The product is made from cheap meat scrap and if McDonald’s buys too much of it the price of trimmings rises and the profit margin drops. So, the good folks at Ronald’s house wait until there is an oversupply of trimmings being at bargain prices and then they bring back the McRib. When it disappears is when the price of the raw materials gets too high. Oh, Chicken McNuggets are restructured meat products too, and who doesn’t like the occasional fifty-pack of McNuggets?
By the way, pork, chicken, and beef trimmings are commonly found in many of the foods we enjoy. There are few processed meats, lunch meats, scrapple, sausages, hot dogs, Spam, etc. that don’t contain scrap meats. Getting the most from the animal is why these foods were created in the first place.
The McRib claim addressed I decided to “look” into the cow eye question. As soon as I entered McDonald’s eyeballs into Google’s search engine it came back with a link to Snopes.Com, a very good source of information relating to the honesty of claims made on the Internet. According to Snopes this claim has been around for years and fits in with the claims that McDonald’s uses worm meat in its hamburger and chicken feathers in its milk shakes as fillers. The truth, according to Snopes, is that McDonald’s labels their hamburgers as “100% beef patties” and that the USDA insists that they be just that, all beef with no fillers. Cow eyes would be considered a filler and thus not usable.
When I was a senior in college I worked for the McDonald’s Corporation at one of their Whittier, CA stores. My title was “swing manager” which meant I was third in charge and, as such, didn’t have to clean the rest rooms or filter the lard (yes, lard) in the fryers. Otherwise, I was involved in whatever it required to keep the place going. A nice part of the job was the occasional invite to corporate tastings. Couple of times during my employment I got to go to downtown LA and sample what various food and drink vendors had to offer. At the time I was impressed with the company’s focus on taste and quality over costs. After each session we would submit our findings for each offering and the company chose who it did business with on the basis how we voted. They purchased Heinz Ketchup and Bireley’s Orange Soda and Root Beer because the majority of us tasters thought they tasted best.
The emphasis on flavor and quality of their products, coupled with the insistence on cleanliness in their stores won me over. As McDonald’s has grown and more of its stores operated by franchisees, I’m not sure if cleanliness is as focused on as back in the day. We’ve all set under too many Golden Arches at tables of questionable Godliness.
Over the decades Micky D has had to deal with many issues regarding the quality of their food and their corporate dietary policies. As demonstrated in the 2004 film, Super Size Me, a diet too rich in Golden Arch favorites can be a major contributor to one’s waist line and blood pressure. To me, however, McDonald’s, and fast-food in general, is not something that should be experienced on a daily basis. Like all things, fast-food should be enjoyed in great moderation. But since it isn’t, it has become a major contributor to the obesity problem rampant in today’s America.
Going back to my original list of likes and dislikes, I’m still riding the McDonald’s bandwagon. I love the coffee, the free Wi-Fi, the occasional hot fudge sundae, and regret that they all don’t serve warm home-baked oatmeal raisin cookies with unknown crispy things in them. For the sake of my waist line, however, that is probably a good thing.