Monday, November 8, 2010

McDonald 1 - Health Nazis 0

You will have heard the (in)famous story about the never-rotting McDonald burger. There are several versions, but the basic facts are pretty much the same: the guy (or lady) buys a McDonald burger, and lets is sit on a counter without ever touching it for 6 months or one year. The result is that the burger and the fries do not seem to change shape: by the end of the 6 months, they look like they just came out of the restaurant. Health Nazis take it as proof that Mcdonald's burgers are not made of real meat and/or are filled with preservatives.


I always had one major problem with this. It wasn't the fact that this whole story could have been a lie (after all, we have no way to check whether the burger that the bloggers show is really the same). But I always thought that the fact that the burger didn't rot was entirely plausible, and that it didn't necessarily mean that the meat wasn't good. Why?

A couple of years ago I cooked a home made pizza, all with fresh ingredients, and then I forgot half of it in a small oven that broke and was thrown in a cupboard. While we were packing to move from Brussels to Chicago, the oven came out of the long forgotten cupboard, and - SURPRISE! - half a pizza was in there, and it looked perfect. It looked like it had just gotten out of the oven. I felt like Homer Simpson when he finds a ten year old donut, and can't resist...mmmh, forbidden donut... and he ended up eating it. I don't know how I resisted the urge to eat that pizza, but maybe my wife threw it away, I don't know.

The point of the story is that I knew the ingredients I had used in that pizza, and I know they were all good and fresh. And yet that pizza, after one year, looked perfect.

Now the Burgerlab has SCIENTIFICALLY proven that ALL burgers of a certain weight - even homemade, with prime cut beef and homemade patties - do not rot. Exactly like McDonald's. The guy who carried out the experiment took 9 burgers: 5 McDonald and 4 home made, of different weights and with different patties, and let them sit there in the open air for a month. Results?

"Well, well, well. Turns out that not only did the regular McDonald's burgers not rot, but the home-ground burgers did not rot either. Samples one through five had shrunk a bit (especially the beef patties), but they showed no signs of decomposition. What does this mean?
It means that there's nothing that strange about a McDonald's burger not rotting. Anyburger of the same shape will act the same way."
All looking good, homemade and Mcdonald's
The reason seems to be related to the weight of the patties: if the burgers are below a certain weight - like the normal McDonald's and most homemade burgers - they dehydrate fast enough to avoid any mold formation. If the burgers are bigger, like the quarter pounders (130g) of the experiments - both McDonald's and homemade - they have more water in the meat, hence they take longer to dehydrate, hence they start to rot before they are completely dehydrated. 
Weight of the burgers: it is all in the dehydration...nothing to do with the quality of the meat.
Of course if you are a health Nazi, you will still have plenty of reasons to hate McDonald's. But I guess that the argument that their burgers do not rot because they contain no meat or too many preservatives is now definitely out.

18 comments:

Jen said...

Well that's...unpredictable.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Jen! I wasn't so surprised, given my pizza experience...but I think urban legend are difficult to die...

Fabs said...

As the salt content is quite high in a burger it preserves the meat on top of that dehydration fact.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Fabs, in reality the guy who did the experiment also considered this: so he had one of the burger WITHOUT salt. Yet, even that burger with NO salt didn't rot. So it would seem that salt doesn't pay a role...

art said...

wow! Tuscan Foodie dropping the science! I can say that I bore witness to an actual rotten McD's burger. I remember riding in brother's car years ago during his "bachelor" days and smelling a terrible odor. After much digging through the trash on the floor of his car, lo and behold, guess what he found? A rotten portion of a McD's burger. On the other hand, if the burger had been sitting in a cool dry place it probably would have just dehydrated and looked normal.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Art: yes, you need to save them in a dry environment...or maybe it was a quarter pounder?

kitchenbitchblog.com said...

LOL, love the title of this post! Either way, McDonald's burgers scare me, although I admit I do eat one every now and then :)

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi KB, I think McDonald's meat is more controlled than that we can find in smaller shops...but I used to have one once a week when I was living back in Europe. Since I moved here I haven't been, although I still do eat a burger a week... I need to go to a McDonald's this weekend! It has been too long!

via said...

I can’t help but regard McDo hamburgers as being in their own class of food; they just don’t compare with a fat, juicy burger right off the grill. As a side note, I had a fantastic burger in Kathmandu at K2 last week. I don’t know what they seasoned it with but the flavor was totally unique; a cool example of how different countries can adapt foreign foods to their own tastes.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Via, I am with you on the fact that I would rather have a fat juicy home made burger...and that's why I haven't been to a Macdonald's since I moved here. But I don't like health nazis and especially I do not like urban legends...

Welcome back from your trip! From your description, you seem to have had a very good time!

Pavlova Cakes said...

This is really interesting.

Britgirl said...

I am not a Mcdonalds fan by any stretch but i do love this "myth buster" blog

Tuscan foodie in America said...

and you know, britgirl? How much do you want to be bet that we will still be hearing about this BS in the future? Certain people know no shame.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...Health Nazis. Because..you know...the Nazis were known for their strict health standards. How about Health Nuts or Health Obsessed. If we keep using Nazi to describe everything we'll eventually need to refer to the Nazis as "Nazis..as in the real Nazis".

Anonymous said...

This is incredible. I never would have thought that if a burger rots or not would have anything to do with its size!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Anonymous 1, I see your point...but it was just a figure of speech for what I thought was a funny title.

Anonymous 2: me neither, frankly. Nothing in my "pizza accident" had suggested that size played a role, although probably size was important even in that case, because the pizza was very thin.

At least now we know!

Anonymous said...

i understand the evidence for why the patty would not mold or decompose but what about the bread?

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi anonymous, I think the reason is still the same: dehydration. It is the same that happened to my pizza I had mentioned in my post. As I think about it, I have a three weeks old bread on my counter, that I plan on using on breadpudding, and it looks perfect, as the day I bought it.

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