The Most Revealing Responses From McDonald's 'Our Food Your Questions' Campaign

For the past few years, McDonald's Australia has been inviting customers to grill the company about its products on the Our Food Your Questions website. No question is off-limits, including whether Quarter Pounders have shrunk in size (they have) and whether McMuffins use free-range eggs (they don't). While this was obviously a PR stunt designed to engage customers and their wallets, the amount of transparency still surprised us. Here are 15 of the most revealing -- and weirdest -- responses from the campaign so far.

Has McDonald’s burger sizes changed?

The short answer is that the burger sizes haven't changed. We did slightly reduce the width of the Quarter Pounder and McChicken buns to increase the meat-to-bread ratio, which also happened to improve the overall yumminess of these favourites. With our Big Mac, we can definitely say that it's the same size today as when it was first introduced in Australia in 1971.

Improve the overall yumminess? I'm calling shenanigans.

Are any McDonald's foods made in China?

Yes, but only a few of them. While over 90% of our food and packaging is locally manufactured, using local and imported raw materials, we do purchase some foods from companies that produce in other countries. Our ketchup and sundae toppings are created by Heinz in China, as is the Heinz ketchup sachet that we offer in our restaurants. The Oreo crumb in our McFlurry is also made in China.

Fair enough, we suppose.

Does McDonald’s use free-range eggs and pork?

Our goal is to provide customers with quality food at great value, and the cost of free-range chicken, bacon and eggs would raise the price of our food to a point that our customers may not feel they are receiving the value they've come to expect from us.

We are proud of our recent improvements in the welfare of the pigs used for our bacon. As of January this year, the sows used for our bacon have been group housed for the majority of their gestation period rather than housed in gestation crates (also known as sow stalls).

It's good to know that "gestation crates" are only used for some of the pig's life cycle. Brrr.

Does McDonald's add pickles to cheeseburgers to avoid them being labelled as "confectionery" due to the high sugar content?

We add pickle to our burgers because they are delicious and form part of the distinctive Macca's taste, not to transform confectionery into savoury. There is no more than 5% sugar in our buns. Sugars are used in baking for more than just sweetness. They have a profound impact on the appearance of baked goods and affect browning, texture and volume.

Five per cent sugar sounds pretty reasonable we suppose. But that's before the ketchup is added.

Are any McDonald's products genetically modified?

The majority of our ingredients are not derived from genetically modified sources as we source most of our ingredients from Australia, where there are very few GM ingredients produced. However, there are a small number of products that we import from overseas, and some of the ingredients in these products may be derived from genetically modified sources. For example, the soy bean oil in our tartare sauce may be derived from genetically modified soy beans.

To be fair, McDonald's goes on to explain that the refining process removes the genetically modified material from its oils. Besides, GM foods shouldn't be feared just because it's new. Certain GMOs have already been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Why don't your burgers decompose when left unrefrigerated?

The reason why our burgers sometimes don't decompose when left out at room temperature in a dry environment is that once the food is cooked there isn't enough moisture to support mould growth to break it down. Instead, it simply dries out. The same result would occur with other similar cooked food, so it's not unique to our food.

Hmm. You can find a more detailed explanation here.

What oil does McDonald’s use?

We use a special canola oil blend which contains canola oil, sunflower oil and a small amount of palm oil. This blend offers the best flavour, shelf life and nutritional profile to meet our frying-oil requirements. It also meets industry guidelines for healthier oils. Our oil contains less than 12% saturated fat and less than 1% trans fat. It also contains about 63% monounsaturated fat and 18% polyunsaturated fat.

In regard to our use of palm oil, it's sourced from Peninsula Malaysia, which is not involved with the deforestation and displacement of orang-utans. Additionally, the companies we source from are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and source the majority of their palm oil from RSPO members. The RSPO promotes palm oil production practices that help to reduce deforestation, preserve biodiversity and respect the livelihoods of rural communities.

Sometimes canola oil is confused with natural rapeseed oil which is relatively high in erucic acid. Canola is not natural rapeseed. Canola is derived from the same species of plant, but it is low in erucic acid. In Australia, all canola is low in erucic acid.

Bring back beef tallow! No really. If you're going to eat greasy fast food, you might as well go the whole hog (or should that be cow?) The fries in the '80s were so much tastier.

How many cows are killed to make McDonald's products each year?

Just to clarify, we don't actually own any abattoirs, farms or manufacturing facilities. We only use forequarter and hindquarter trimmings and some whole muscle cuts, not the entire cow. We can tell you that over 7.35 million head of adult cattle were killed in Australia 2012 and we purchased 27.8 million kg of Aussie beef.

Why are the Filet-o-Fish cheese slices so small?

We actually use a half slice of cheese on our Filet-o-Fish, as we have always done. We feel that provides the perfect balance for the tangy tartare sauce and crispness of the coating. Also, we don't want the cheese to steal the show from our fish. If you like, you can always request more cheese (for a small price) to make it just right for your taste buds.

Lifehacker tip: Instead of requesting "extra" cheese, ask them to swap out the Filet-o-Fish version for a regular slice. This should come at no extra charge.

How many nuggets do you get out of a chicken?

Our Chicken McNuggets are made for us by our suppliers Inghams and OSI. As the meat in our nuggets is only breast and some skin, from an average 2kg bird, the approximate number of nuggets would be 50, give or take a few. The remainder of the meat is not wasted, but used by our supplier for other customers.

I don't feel so bad about all those 24 packs now.

Is all McDonald's meat sourced from Australia?

The cattle used to make our 100% Australian beef patties are sourced from farms and feedlots all over Australia, the majority of which are from the central and eastern states. Our chicken is produced in Australia and comes from our local suppliers Ingham's and OSI.

Our fish comes from a little further afield, with the Alaskan Pollock sourced from the USA Alaskan Pollock Fishery. Finally, our bacon comes from Don KRC, who source their pork from Australia and Canada.

It seems when it comes to Australia, Macca's isn't a fisherman's friend.

Is bacon grilled or microwaved?

Our bacon is cooked on our nifty two-sided grill, however in the case of our restaurants serving halal options, it is cooked in our microwaves.

We have nothing to add to this. Please keep racism out of the comments.

How are McDonald's french fries made?

The potatoes are blanched, or par-cooked in hot water. Then they're treated with a weak dextrose solution, which is a corn-derived sugar, to replace the natural sugars lost during blanching. The dextrose gives our fries a uniform, golden appearance after cooking, so the flavour of our fries is from the potatoes themselves and our canola oil blend that they're cooked in.

Mmmm, corn-derived sugar.

What's the go with additives?

Food additives are used for many different reasons, for example thickeners for texture, preservatives to keep food safe or prevent spoilage and colours to ensure a consistent appearance for a number of reasons, such as seasonality of ingredients. Additives are only added at the minimum level required to achieve the function needed and comply with the Food Standards Code.

Why does the image on the poster never look like the product you get served?

When we prepare a Macca's burger for its moment in front of the camera, there's a lot of time spent getting it looking picture-perfect. Just like a family portrait, we want our burgers presented at their very best. So while the burgers seen in the images are the same size with the same ingredients, it's important to note that they've been slowly assembled, expertly lit and professionally photographed over a lengthy period of time.

When it comes to a burger we serve up in our restaurants, we want the choice ingredients assembled and served up quickly to ensure it stays warm and ready for you to eat, which is why you might find that it's not identical to the one you see in our advertisements.

We'll just leave this here.

Why does McDonald's use phosphates in its chicken?

The simple answer is that the phosphates are there to retain moisture in the meat for succulence. Without it, our famous chicken products would be dry (and as a result, not so famous!). Phosphates are a naturally-occurring trace mineral. They’re commonly used in making many of the foods in home kitchens and restaurants, such as meat and chicken products and baked goods. Phosphates are approved for use by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

Phosphate food additives have been linked to a range of health problems, including cardiovascular and renal disease. However, this only occurs when consumed in extremely high quantities. An occasional McChicken burger is fine.

What's in the Big Mac sauce? Soybean Oil (Antioxidant (330)), Water, Relish [ Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Preservative (202), Thickener (415), Flavourings], Mustard [Water, Distilled Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Salt, Sugar, Colours (150d, 100), Spice], Salted Egg Yolks, Distilled Vinegar, Onion, Thickeners (1442, 415, 405), Spices, Sugar, Salt, Hydrolysed Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy, Wheat Gluten), Preservative (211), Colours (160c, 150d, 100), Emulsifier (433), Garlic, Antioxidant (385). We don't give away the exact ratios, of course, as we like to keep this top secret.

Here's our own attempt to crack the secret of the sauce.

This story has been updated since its original publication.


    Has McDonald’s burger sizes changed?
    The short answer is that the burger sizes haven’t changed. We did slightly reduce the width of the Quarter Pounder bun to increase the meat-to-bread ratio


    So what they are saying is "Yes, the Quarter Pounder is smaller"

    Last edited 19/11/14 12:36 pm

      No they're not. They are saying that they made the bun smaller.

      Last edited 19/11/14 12:53 pm

        You must be a special kind of stupid.

          we didnt make it smaller...we in fact enriched the flavour enjoyment by refining the bread to meat ratio.....ahhhhh big business, why cant you just say yes and no.

            If they say "Yes", people will get pissed because they think they've decreased the size of the meat, bun and other ingredients. If they say no, they're lying.

            I thought their answer of making the bun smaller was a good one. It could have been a "Yes and no. We dropped the size of the bun, so you'd get less bun flavour and more meat flavour" one instead, but they answered it.

              To be fair when people complain about the size of a Quarter Pounder, they don't generally think it needs more bun. Damn now I want Burgers.

                They said they reduced the could still be the same weight and therefore the same amount but with less width, but hey, don't let that get in the way of assuming they MUST have made it smaller to screw us all! Besides, who cares if they did or not really, you either feel like you're getting value for money and keep buying or don't and stop buying.

        is the bun not part of the overall burger? in this case...yes, which means yes it is smaller.

          It both is, and isn't.

          It's Schrodinger's Burger!

          (In all seriousness see below for my rationale)

          Burger can mean the whole burger but it's also used to refer to just the patty.

          They clearly answered the queston and gave all the information necessary for either use of the term burger. I personally can't say I'm mourning the slight loss of bun but it's a personal choice.

      I've known many people who will refer to just the pattie as a burger, particularly home cooked ones that may not even be served in a bun.

      So when someone references a burger, it can either reference just the meat or the whole bun and accoutrements serving. Either is a valid use of the word so they're technically correct and they are quite open about what they changed, though probably not the reason.

      That said I think they could have been clearer in defining their terms, I had to reread that answer to understand exactly what they were shooting for.

      No, the burgers haven't gotten smaller. You have gotten fatter....

      I have a brilliant idea; You can increase the meat-to-bread ratio by increasing the meat.

        But then it wouldn't be a quarter pounder...

    Does McDonald’s use free-range eggs and pork?

    No, not yet for eggs (in a year or two yes) and never for bacon unless the public or Government requires it.

      Pretty sure they already answered this with a no.

        Well they skirted around the question and didn't say no at all, so I put it in plain language

          Geez, all these people whinging about "Weasel Words" and "Double Speak", I like the fact they didn't just answer with flat out "No" or "Yes" but took the time to actually answer the questions being asked. I bet if they had done that and just given blunt questions with very little explanation you'd all be complaining about that instead "How dare they not give us proper full answers?!"

    I dont care what McDondalds say, the Big Macs from the 90's before they got all healthy were bigger. Perhaps they are getting around this by saying the diameter of the meat patty or bun is the same but I can tell you right now that the patties used to be twice as thick at least.

      I highly doubt this. The patties used in Quarter Pounders and Big Macs are internally called 4:1 and 10:1 (usually pronounced "four to one" and "ten to one"), respectively.

      This is the number of patties made from one pound of meat, hence four patties from one pound of meat being used for a "Quarter Pounder" burger.

      Unless the pound has changed since the nineties, a tenth of a pound is still a tenth of a pound. Maybe the meat was aerated in the past to make them look thicker?

        Either that or I'm guessing ax's local franchise bent the rules out of line with national guidelines? Or human memory is faulty on minor details such as meat patties' thickness, when drawn upon over a range of decades.

        The latter seems the most likely.

          I don't know how much freedom franchisees have with regards to their suppliers... as far as I've seen, all stores use the same suppliers of patties, which are delivered pre-cut.

            It's definitely reaching a bit. Maybe things were different in the 90s, maybe they were adding double patties and squishing them together... but the most likely scenario is his memory is faulty.

        4-to-1 and 10-to-1 are actually internal references to the chopped onion. While 4:1 onion is only used on larger (qP etc ) burgers, and 10:1 is only used on smaller (cheeseburger etc) burgers, it could seem like this reference is to the meat, however it's only the onion dice size.

      LOL @ "twice as thick". Thanks for telling us that, it's appreciated.

        "Twice as thick" - like some of the commenters on this post (not directed at you specifically).

      Our memories are completely shoddy Ax. You'd do well to stop relying on your memory in the face of more rigorous data.

      I don't know your age, but is it possible you were smaller in the '90s. And the burgers just seemed twice as thick.

    That Big Mac sauce is just... crazy sauce!

    I note the 'please keep racist comments out' of the piece that mentions Halal. 'Halal' is a religious concept, not an ethnic one, so has no racist component at all. All religions should be up for critique/discussion in the open market of ideas, and not protected by the inclination of some of their adherents to let off bombs.
    As it stands I object to Halal anything mainly because it involves cruelty to animals.

      'Halal' is a religious concept, not an ethnic one, so has no racist component at all.

      In my experience, this doesn't stop anti-Halal discussions from descending into racist rants.

      Expect those against halal (99% of them) use anti halal as an excuse to spread vitrolic xenophobic hate towards muslims. They arent against Halal. They are just ignorant bogans

      People using lines like "Islam is not a race, Therefore anything i say is not racist!" are idiots. Plain and simple

      There is a difference between criticism and being a xenophobic prick.

      Last edited 06/11/16 12:15 am

      I too object to halal and kosher and any other ritualistic slaughter. It's pointless and an added hassle that brings no health/sanitary benefits that its boosters claim. (The last time i checked the Halal world's food was no safer than the non-halal world's food.) However, i think your being a bit subjective by calling it cruelty. Vegans would consider any animal slaughter to be cruelty, period (in the end killing is killing, after all). Whether the animal dies instantly or dies a few moments later would matter little to them. So while you may look down at Muslims, vegans would look down at you as being no less a savage. If Muslims are happy to eat halal and companies see the commercial viability of selling halal then i don't see what the issue is. So just put things in perspective before you want to claim a holier-than-thou position.
      Also, i agree with the comment below: anti-Halal is just a front for a small segment of Aussies who, by the look of most of their members, are nothing more than anti-Islamic bogans and thugs -- many of whom would probably struggle to spell 'Muslim'. If they are so worried about Halal cruelty then they should be just as noisy about Kosher cruelty. They create nothing but tension, ignorance, distrust and disunity in the community and raise the likelihood of violence against Muslims.

    'Mostly', 'The majority of', 'Only a few of them'. More weasel words from corporate big business. Let's be clear and say that McDonald's is a business and therefore, care only about turning profits and not overtly killing off their customers. The Our Food Your Questions campaign is an attempt to provide an opportunity for highly paid PR representatives to produce carefully crafted statements to make the consumer say "You know what, McDonald's isn't bad after all. Lets go get some lunch!".

    Does McDonald’s add pickles to cheeseburgers to avoid them being labelled as “confectionery” due to the high sugar content?
    Interesting that they don't actually so "No" to the question. I would have thought that would have been the first word used.

      Well, they did say it's not to transform confectionery into savoury. They also produced a video that explicitly states that the confectionery/pickle stuff is a myth:

        Which is why I expected them to flat out say No. The way they phrased it reeks of double speak.
        The reason we did it was flavour not the confectionery thing. The confectionery thing was just a side effect of adding flavour,

        Since this isn't the case I just found it weirdly worded

          I did as well and the specified confectionery to savoury. So maybe it's to go from confectionery to something else.
          I also like their 2 sided grill for bacon aka a sandwich press.

            All the beef is cooked on a press-style grill - cooking both sides at the same time is faster.

              Yeah, I'm not disputing that it's more efficient. I just like the way they call it nifty. Like it's some genius invention and not an industrial Forman grill.

          Not that weirdly worded. If you check all the other answers, they've never given a straight yes/no on its own, and in fact only even said 'yes, but' just once.

          Every other one has basically been taking what are really borderline, "So how often do you beat your wife?" type 'gotcha' questions and re-framed them in ways that take reality into account.

          It's pretty much a matter of acknowledging the myth or accusation the question is trying to get at, and explaining the context around that. Like the, 'how many cows do you kill' one, sometimes the only answer to 'how often do you beat your wife' is:
          "We engage in some consensual acts of light sexual violence on a semi-regular basis, and she has sustained bruises in some of our sparring matches, but I've never harmed her in anger or without consent and awareness of the risks."

          A much better answer than, "Two to three times a week... BUT it's not what you think."

          Last edited 20/11/14 10:36 am

            In addition to this, by starting off an answer with "yes" or "no", you risk the reader taking JUST that from your response. Once the question has been 'answered', it's easy for people to switch off to the rest of it. If you avoid doing this, you can get the reader to think more about what you've said.

      I think the add pickles idea is an urban legend or a playground joke. Has anyone *ever* heard of any food other than McDonalds being 'labelled as confectionery'? What official body does that labelling? What would McDonalds avoid by sneakily adding the pickle? Why I have I typed so much about something so trivial? I'm hungry.

    Despite what they say here, McDonald's don't use certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). RSPO is an industry body and this in no way guarantees that the palm oil is sustainable, nor that it even comes from where they say (or think) it does.

    Last edited 19/11/14 5:45 pm

      I actually did a Wikipedia on it and it starts out sounding good, but when you get to the criticisms section. Yeah their a body that governs and decides their own practices.

    I wonder where they source their eggs from in Sweden? To the best of my knowledge, Sweden it's still against the law to farm battery chickens and other animals. All eggs must be from free range chickens. What an enlightened people they are. Our descendents will one day look back on us and how we treat animals as we now regard slavery. Times and thinking change. We no longer legally breed animals for fighting as the ancient Romans did.

      Well yeah but the Romans didn't have Pokemon so...


    I fully support offering halal options for our Muslim friends, but microwaved bacon is a crime against humanity!

      Full on for support, but yeah it isn't the same. Even with the contraption that is meant to help make it crispy, its never the same :(

      Tidbit: Even though a store might not be halal approval, slowly more products are already approved during production. Items like sundae topping and ketchup labeled with halal approval as the gelatine used is approved, and i believe these are disputed throughout many store.

    How can anyone think the Quarter Pounder meat patty had gotten smaller? The size is in the name.

    It's so weird seeing Lifehacker full of regurgitated storied from 2014 O_O

      Yeah I was reading replies not paying attention to the dates and was then all, wait what when the hell did I make a comment in here. Then saw 2014.

      Last edited 06/11/16 1:49 pm

      "Full of regurgitated stories" is a bit harsh. Today, we published 30 stories. Three had appeared on the site before.

        I think the fact you replied in 2017 to a comment from 2016 on an article from 2014 somewhat illustrates the point. Also, 10% of published articles today being reposts is not a good statistic.

        Republishing old articles is something that's happening here a lot more frequently, across the three main sites. I don't know of any other news or professional blog style sites that do that so often, and certainly I haven't seen any that don't at least put an explanation (that makes sense, not just 'because reasons') for why it was reposted at the top of the article.

        Is there any context to why this one has reappeared? If it was just to add more questions, surely doing a 'part 2' article linked to the first part would have been a better approach.

          10% of published articles today being reposts is not a good statistic.

          This isn't correct. Our reposts typically run in empty time slots that would otherwise be unoccupied. So it's "extra" content (albeit extra content that has run on the site before.)

          There are various reasons why we do this. Most people don't visit Lifehacker on a daily basis which means they haven't seen the story before. If a story remains interesting and relevant it makes sense, both from a traffic and reader-value perspective, to give it another run.

          If you've encountered the story before and have no desire to revisit it, feel free to scroll past without clicking. There is plenty of new stuff on the site too.

            I don't think it's a huge ask to put something at the top of the article noting it's a repost (for X reason) or when the content of it was last updated. Doesn't have to be much, just "This article was originally written in November 2014 and last updated in November 2016", and if you're feeling extra nice, even a line like "We're republishing it because blah".

            The problem with the way it runs right now is readers have no way to tell if any of the content is even still accurate. These answers were all written three years ago, who knows how many things have changed since then? But even if it's something timeless like a howto guide or a list of necktie knots or something, it'd still be nice as a reader to know this hasn't been reposted because neckties took hostages in the news recently or because Turnbull invented a new kind of knot that's been added to the article, but just to get some more exposure.

            As it stands, the publication date implies something new, but reading the same article twice only to realise it hasn't been changed leaves me feeling like my time and patronage was disrespected.

    Back again in 2017.

    I'd like to see them ask Rodney Rude for some questions.

    Clear out the comments when you do this at least. I've almost replied to myself once.

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