McDonald’s has become the best-known fast food brand in the world. It has 31,000 restaurants in 120 countries around the world and serves nearly 47 million customers each day, and for many has come to symbolise the hopes and the fears of the Americanization of global culture.
The golden arches of the red and yellow restaurants now bestride the globe, or “McWorld”, and excite both enmity and admiration from the foes and friends of capitalism.
“One World: One Taste”. This McDonald’s slogan emerges from an ambitious corporate vision of dominating the global fast food market.
The History of McDonald’s
The first McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines, Illinois in June 1955. In five years there were 200 restaurants. By 1995 there were over 18,000 restaurants worldwide.
Cows into Burgers
After Coca-Cola, the hamburger is the best-known American food invention to spread around the world. It takes a lot of cows to provide the world’s hamburgers, and turning so many cattle into so much beef meat needs an industrial process. Cattle eat grass at pasture or on the range, but in the USA many are specially fattened up for their last three months before slaughter.
In giant feedlots up to 100,000 cattle eat grain from concrete troughs, along with a cocktail of anabolic steroids and growth hormones. According to a recent study by the US Department of Agriculture, these crowded conditions are a breeding ground for infectious diseases.
The factory of livestock
The McDonalds applied automation to food, just as Henry Ford had to car-manufacture. Contrary to conventional farm house, each worker is required to stand in the same spot and do the same movements for an eight-hour shift.
Automated Meat Recovery Systems can get every scrap of meat off a bone. The bones, hooves, blood and scraps can also be rendered into pet-food.
The animals keep strolling up, oblivious to what comes next, and he stands over them and shoots. For eight-and-a-half hours, he just shoots. As I stand there, he misses a few times and shoots the same animal twice. As soon as the steer falls, a worker grabs one of its hind legs, shackles it to a chain, and the chain lifts the huge animal into the air. I watch the knocker knock cattle for a couple of minutes. The animals are powerful and imposing one moment and then gone in an instant, suspended from a rail, ready for carving. A steer slips from its chain, falls to the ground, and gets its head caught in one end of a conveyor belt. The production line stops as workers struggle to free the steer, stunned but alive, from the machinery. I've seen enough.Giant grinders are installed for making hamburgers. Modern plants can process 800,000 pounds of hamburger meat a day, from many thousands of different cattle. The meat in a single fast food hamburger could come from dozens, or even hundreds of cows.
Ref- Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation, p. 171, Penguin Books, 2002
Chicken into Nuggets
In 1979, when poultry was becoming more fashionable to eat and sales of beef were wilting, Fred Turner, the Chairman of McDonald’s had an idea for a new meal. “I want a chicken finger-food without bones, about the size of your thumb. Can you do it?” he asked.
After six months of research, the food technicians and scientists managed to reconstitute shreds of white chicken meat into small portions which could be breaded, fried, frozen then reheated. They used chemical stabilizers but also beef fat to enhance their taste.
Test-marketing the new product was positive, and in 1983 they were launched in the USA under the name Chicken McNuggets.
Attracting the Customers
The logo for McDonald’s is the golden arches of the letter ‘M’ on a red background.
The ‘M’ stands for McDonald’s, but the rounded ‘m’ represents mummy’s mammaries, according the design consultant and psychologist Louis Cheskin. In the 1960's McDonald's was prepared to abandon this logo, but Cheskin successfully urged the company to maintain this branding with its Freudian symbolism of a pair of nourishing breasts.
McDonald’s operates more playgrounds – designed to attract children and their parents to its restaurants – than any other private entity in the US.“Give Mom a night off” was an early advertising slogan, so the meal out meant no cooking, serving and washing-up for her.
Walt Disney’s hidden marketing campaign
In 1996, McDonalds signed a ten year global marketing agreement with the Walt Disney Company to promote and help each other. Psychologists confirm a theory that Ray Kroc and Walt Disney traded upon, that “brand loyalty” can be established by the age of two.
It has replaced Coca Cola as the world's most famous brand, but serves Coca Cola in its establishments.
One way McDonald’s ensured the visibility of its brand, and in the process revolutionized fast food, was by making its restaurants easily accessible on the US highway system.Church steeples were often his guide, because Kroc wanted to attract church-going families to his temples of efficiency and nourishment, which always had clean toilets.
In fact, in the USA more people now eat in McDonald’s than go to church or synagogue. Surveys have shown that the golden arches are better known than the Christian cross.
Manufacturing Fast Food Addiction
Fast food companies happily capitalize on this. Fast food is industrially processed before it is served. It requires colour additives to make it look good, and chemical flavor compounds to make it taste right.
Food scientists also study “mouthfeel” – and can adjust crunchiness and chewiness, density and dryness, by using a range of fats, gums, starches, emulsifiers, and stabilisers.
The scientists have been almost too successful, and their chemistry for some has become addictive.
The silent killer
As fast food chains spread through Europe and Asia on a rising tide of affluence, people got fatter in those countries. It is called “globesity” by the World Health Organisation (WHO). By 2000 the number of obese adults had risen to 300 million.
Exploitation of Labour
THERE must be a serious problem: even though 80% of McDonald's workers are part-time, the annual staff turnover is 60% (in the USA its 300 %). It's not unusual for their restaurant-workers to quit after just four or five weeks. The reasons are not hard to find.
“One out of every eight workers in the US has, at some point worked at a McDonald's restaurant.”It's obvious that all large chain-stores and junk-food giants depend for their fat profits on the labour of young people. McDonald's is no exception: three-quarters of its workers are under 21. The production-line system deskills the work itself: anybody can grill a hamburger, and cleaning toilets or smiling at customers needs no training. So there is no need to employ chefs or qualified staff - just anybody prepared to work for low wages.
A Corporation Under Attack
Its defenders, usually on the right, point to the arrival of McDonald’s in a country as a marker of middle-class affluence and aspiration, a sign of economic efficiency and improved infrastructure, and an index of social progress with orderly queues, clean washrooms and happy children.
However in reality, entry of McDonald’s to a country is widely identified as American authoritarian, abusive of animals, exploitative of workers, unhealthy, unecological, and ruthlessly profiteering.
In recent years branches of McDonald’s have been attacked in America , Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, France, Holland, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and UK. Protests against McDonald's have captured the public imagination.
- What's Wrong with McDonald's
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