The 7 Worst Things About McDonald's


McDonald’s has become synonymous with food that’s terrible for you, low-wage jobs and overzealous marketing to children. Largely that’s because of McDonald’s scale; the company serves more customers each day than the entire population of Great Britain, and it hires some one million workers each year (reportedly one in eight Americans have been employed by McDonald’s).

This is all to say that there’s a lot to hate about McDonald’s. As such, here is a not-comprehensive list of some of the more outrageous facts about McDonald’s, past and present.

1. It wants employees to work Thanksgiving and Christmas without overtime pay.

McDonald’s has a long history of terrible labor practices, but this is especially Scroogey: this holiday season the company urged franchisees to stay open on Thanksgiving and Christmas (McDonald’s restaurants are usually closed on those holidays). Worse, employees who work those days don’t get paid overtime. According to a company spokesperson, “When our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.”

Mark E. Andersen at the Daily Kos crunched the numbers and figured out that McDonald’s made about $36 million in extra sales by staying open this Thanksgiving. Andersen notes, “It is bad enough that McDonald’s pays crap wages but then they turn around and refuse to pay overtime for employees who volunteer to give up their holidays so that McDonald’s can make several million dollars.” Yup.

2. Workers don’t get fair pay in general.

Not getting overtime pay on major holidays is bad, but unfair wages is a widespread problem for McDonald’s workers year-round. As Sarah Jaffe wrote at the Atlantic recently, “[t]he term ‘McJob’ has come to epitomize all that's wrong with the low-wage service industry jobs that are a growing part of the U.S economy” because “no matter what your job might be, it's assumed to be better than working in a fast-food restaurant.” And of course, McDonald’s is the biggest fast-food restaurant chain there is.

There have been many examinations of McDonald’s pay structure, but this fact sums up the problem best: the average McDonald’s employee would need to work one million hours – or more than a century – to make as much as the company's CEO makes in one year ($8.75 million).

The good news is that fast-food workers, including a number of McDonald’s employees, have been organizing for better treatment and fair wages in recent weeks.

3. Its marketing for kids is “creepy and predatory.”

Two years ago the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened to sue McDonald’s over its “creepy and predatory” marketing practices aimed at children. In its letter of intent to the company, CSPI likened McDonald’s to “the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children” and said the company uses “unfair and deceptive marketing” to “lure small children into McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s duplicitous approach to marketing directed to children can be seen in a recent press release that boasts that the company’s Shrek-based promotion will “encourage kids to ‘Shrek Out’ their Happy Meals around the world with menu options like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and fruit juices.” In reality, though, the whole point of the Shrek promotion is to get kids into McDonald’s where they most likely will end up being served unhealthy default options and eating unhealthy meals.

That wasn’t the first time McDonald’s had come under fire for its use of Happy Meal toys to rope in children as customers, and given that the company is the number-one toy distributor in the world, it surely it won’t be the last.

4. It has a salad with a higher calorie count than a burger and fries, and about the unhealthiest oatmeal on the planet.

McDonald’s once introduced a Caesar salad that was more fattening than a hamburger -- with fries. The Daily Mail reported that “with dressing and croutons [the salad] contains 425 calories and 21.4g of fat, compared with the 253 calories and 7.7g of fat in the standard burger.” What’s more, “Adding a portion of fries to your burger brings the calorie count to 459 -- still less fatty than the salad at 16.7g.” That is downright impressive.

More recently, McDonald’s oatmeal -- another purportedly “healthy” option on the Micky D menu -- has been criticized for being anything but good for you. Mark Bittman wrote in the Times that the company’s oatmeal is nothing but “expensive junk food” (you can make real, healthy oatmeal at home for very little money). He went on: “A more accurate description than ‘100 percent natural whole-grain oats,’ ‘plump raisins,’ ‘sweet cranberries’ and ‘crisp fresh apples’ would be ‘oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.’”

5. Its burgers won’t decompose.

Who can forget the time a woman let a McDonald’s burger and fries sit out for six months, only to find they wouldn’t decompose?

Here’s the meal on day one:


And here it is one day 94:


In case you think this is just a myth, a researcher found that McDonald’s burgers can rot under certain circumstances, but that in general they won’t decompose on their own. The researcher found it’s likely that “the burger doesn't rot because it's [sic] small size and relatively large surface area help it to lose moisture very fast. Without moisture, there's no mold or bacterial growth.”

Basically, the burger will turn into beef jerky before it can decompose. So it may not be a matter of nasty chemicals in the burger keeping it intact, but it’s still grody.

6. McDonald’s used “pink slime” for years.

By now we’ve all seen, and been horrified by this image:


That is so-called “pink slime,” a substance derived from mechanically separated chicken parts that for years was used to make McDonald’s chicken nuggets. At least, it was used in the U.S.; the substance has long been illegal for human consumption in the UK.

The good news is that, once this image started circulating, McDonald’s was forced to discontinue use of pink slime. (The company claims public outcry had nothing to do with its decision.)

7. McDonald’s is everywhere.

Try as you might, you can’t escape McDonald’s. In the continental U.S., the only place you can go to be more than 100 miles from a McDonald’s restaurant is a desert on the Oregon/Nevada border.


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