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.