The truth about McDonald’s
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Ad campaign directed at moms resorts to misleading tactics
McDonald’s latest public relations campaign has sunk the already dubious entity to a new low.
I know McDonald’s does good things for the community. U.S. McDonald’s restaurants have raised more than $23.4 million for their charity organization, The Ronald McDonald House Charities. The company reached its worldwide goal of raising $50 million in 2005 to commemorate their 50th anniversary. The money will go to scholarships, children’s hospitals and according to their Web site, “grants to other organizations that directly improve the health and well-being of children.”
But if McDonald’s puts forth efforts this grand for children, why do they sell horribly unhealthy food and relentlessly advertise it to kids?
McDonald’s has some amazing public relations people and ingenious marketing and advertisement departments. They’ve gotten away with shilling this crap to our kids for too long.
According to Morgan Spurlock’s 2005 book “Don’t Eat This Book,” children watch about 40,000 TV commercials per year. That is a 100 percent increase from 20 years ago. In 1978, the Federal Trade Commission proposed banning or severely limiting advertising to children. Congress bowed to the broadcasting, advertising, food and toy industries by revoking the FTC’s authority to restrict advertising in 1980.
Adults can decipher reality from fiction on TV, but young children cannot. McDonald’s has been so successful with their ad campaigns because they target children. If they’ve got the young child, then they have at least one parent too. If they’ve got the whole 2.5 kids and a white picket fence family, that’s four mouths to feed as opposed to one.
The company has focused on a new target group. McDonald’s latest public relations act is targeting moms. Seven moms from diverse backgrounds were chosen to ask “mom” questions about the company and blog about it on the Web site. It’s called Moms’ Quality Correspondence.
Although there are seven smiling faces to click on, the Web site states directly above the pictures that there six moms to choose from. The last mom, Crystal Hanson, only has one journal entry about the French fry field trip. Perhaps it’s because she’s a McDonald’s manager in Onalaska, Wis.
The moms each have their own page. The pages contain basic information about them, a video and photos from their field trips to food suppliers and farms and lastly, their journal entries.
Each mom, except Hanson, responded to the same handful of topics in their journals. Topics of discussion include: “McDonald’s hamburgers, what are they made of?,” “more fruits and vegetables, please” and “the making of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.”
The first mom, Joanna Canizares, has two sons and said, “The idea of participating in a food quality program that involves asking tough Mom questions seemed like a wonderful opportunity to learn about how I can fit McDonald’s into my family’s eating plan.”
Being vegan, I immediately looked at the hamburger response. The moms visited Lopez Foods, one of the five beef suppliers for U.S. McDonald’s restaurants. Canizares reported that about 15 to 20 percent of the ground beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand.
Although the meat is USDA inspected and tested by Lopez Foods, why is McDonald’s using meat from 7,810 miles away? That’s more than three times the distance between Los Angeles and New York.
Canizares then describes how the meat is run through culling equipment to remove bone and gristle that may have made it through the grinding process. She stated, “I can personally guarantee that McDonald’s uses 100 percent beef – there is absolutely nothing but USDA-inspected beef in the burger and every effort is made to ensure the beef is whole muscle meat!”
What is muscle meat and why is she excited about it? I’ve never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger (gasp! I know) but even if I loved meat I would never eat a Franken-burger comprised of meat from other countries.
McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are quite popular with kids. Canizares says in her journal, “McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are [my son's] favorite food.”
The moms spent two days at the broiler farm. This is where day-old chicks are raised and slaughtered when they reach six pounds. Canizares discusses how an on-staff veterinarian helps to prevent disease within the chicken population. She also talks about what the chickens are fed – “in general, the feed is comprised of 65 percent natural corn, 25 percent dried soybeans, and 10 percent vitamins and minerals.”
Canizeras felt the need to actually visit the slaughterhouse portion of the farm. For those who are faint of heart, beware. “The birds arrive on tractor trailers after being [captured] from their cage-free growing farms, and they undergo a quick, three-step process. The process includes being shackled in the dark by their feet, stunned and rendered unconscious in an electrified water system, and immediate decapitation thereafter.”
She then states that the birds were “calm and quiet” after being shackled. She says that the electrocution bath effectively rendered the birds unconscious, “making the decapitation process quick and probably painless,” she said.
Ironically, she states that each bird can be traced back to the facility, even after the bird is fully processed, “ensuring accountability and responsibility at all levels of the process.” I guess standards for beef are less strict than those for chicken. The USDA only ordered the largest meat recall in U.S. history in February; 143 million pounds of beef were tainted.
Another mom, Gilda McHenry, lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three kids. Her comments on the “more fruit and veggies, please” query only focused on apples. The moms went on an “apple experience” and followed apples from the orchard to the packaging plant to the processing facility. “In the past, I would have never considered McDonald’s a contender when it came to healthy selections,” she said.
She vaguely relates the apples to salads and “apple dippers.” But people don’t go to McDonald’s to eat apples, and they didn’t even address vegetables.
McDonald’s is doing moms and kids an injustice by using this campaign to promote themselves as a restaurant that provides healthy food that families can fit into their eating plans. The slick Web design and assuring smiles are sure to mislead many into thinking they are eating healthily.