Sunday, July 25, 2010

McDonald's rant

Last week I started to see tv commercials and billboards promoting Mcdonald's food as "local".  There are pics here of some of the billboards in the Seattle area. 

In today's paper there was a full-page ad about this.  You can see the full copy here.  A direct quote:
[W]ithin Washington state itself (...) close to 95 of every 100 fries (are from Washingon potatoes). To put that in perspective: It’d be easier to find someone who doesn’t like ice cream or puppies than a french fry in Puget Sound that wasn’t made from a Washington potato.
No they di'int!  They played the puppy card.

This ad campaign has rubbed me the wrong way ever since I saw the first blast.  But I haven't been able to say why without blasting holes in my own belief system about buying local.

Is McDonald's food local?  Yes, some of it was grown in Washington.  That's got to be good for our economy, right?

And I promote eating local foods in part because it supports the WA State economy.

So why, then, does this whole "from here" crap irritate me worse than sand in my ass crack?  I want to scream every time I see one of the ads, but why?

I support local agriculture for many reasons.  Puyallup, the town next to mine, was once a sleepy farming community that was known for its luscious berries and fine produce.  Now it's widely recognized for its strip malls, warehouses, and housing developments.  There are only a handful of berry farms remaining in the valley.  When I buy berries from Puyallup farms I am helping sustain a way of life that will be paved over unless people support it with their money.  Money talks.

Berries were once such a way of life in Puyallup that there's a bronze statue of Ted Picha, an early berry farmer.

I've recently befriended Lisa, co-owner of Lucky Pig Farm (ironic name noted).  The meat I've bought from her, which she raises in Tenino, is spectacular and very reasonably priced.  Granted, the prices are higher than Safeway but lower than other local pig farmers.  Today I asked her if she has any kielbasa and she said that she was toying with the idea of making some from the next pig to be slaughtered, which is this week.  I bet she'd save some for me if I asked.

I have decided to purchase pork exclusively from Lisa.  Lisa gives me ideas for how to use the meats they raise and I know that she raises animals responsibly on her 7-acre farm.  Lisa recently told me that they only raise a head of cattle every other year because doing so is very hard on the land.  I believe that she's a good steward of her land because her family depends upon the health of the land to make a living.

I'll write more about Lisa and her adorable son, Calvin, as soon as I can remember to take my camera to the Sunday market. 

Getting back to my point about the "from here" campaign from McD's...

I realized that what "eating local" means to me is being close to your food, understanding where it comes from, eating foods that are minimally processed, and supporting sustainable environmental and economic practices.

Potatoes are healthy until they're deep-fried.  But McD's doesn't just fry the potatoes.  The fries have more ingredients than you can count on one hand.

Apples are a wise choice until you dip them in caramel or wrap them in a trans-fat-filled pastry whose ingredients list sweeteners 4 times: "high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sugar, brown sugar".

Fish is great until it's highly processed, breaded, fried, and served smothered in cheaply made tartar sauce.

Eating foods that you've raised yourself or bought as close to their original form as possible is always the best bet.  As soon as Mega Food comes into the picture, the nutrition goes out the window, even if the food was raised within a day's drive of your front door.

Just because it's "from here" doesn't make it "local".


  1. Actually it does make it loca - just unhealthy. So, your issue is withthe health of McD's. Plus, as you admit, you don't like them and are looking for something they are doing wrong. You should applaud them for using local, and encourage them to be healthier. You know, push your beliefs. Otherwise your beliefs come off as being anti-corporate for its own sake.

  2. Local means nothing when they are probably trucked hundreds of miles for processing and then returned by truck. Puh-lease McDonald's. That's just pathethic.

  3. Jenn, I think you're a little off-target here. And Anonymous is right: you've failed to make the case that their potatoes or apples aren't "local." Here's my take. There are, in very general terms, three things you (and I) look for in food: local; sustainable; healthy. You've addressed thoroughly how the McD apples or potatoes are unhealthy, and you've hinted at how they might not be sustainable. But "local"?

    "Local" doesn't just mean grown here -- although that's part of it. You look for local food because you want to support the local economy, and because you want the _transportation_ of the food to have minimal impact on the environment -- using minimal gas and generating minimal greenhouse gases. That's where I call bullshit on this ad campaign. Yes, those potatoes and apples are grown in this state. But are they processed here? I would be willing to bet quite a bit that the answer is NO. They're trucked halfway across the country, combined with whatever other decidedly non-local ingredients go into their foods, processed like crazy, and shipped back. I don't care if those potatoes were dug out of my back yard -- if they're carted around like that, they aren't "local". (Note that McD's doesn't say where they process their foods, so it is certainly possible that they're processed here, and we can go back to disliking them merely for sustainability and healthiness issues, and leave the rest of the country to dislike them for their non-local-ness -- or we can talk about where their meat comes from. But I'd seriously doubt it.)

  4. Even if the products are processed here - and G-man thinks that the fries might be done in Sumner - the concept for me that "local" means more about minimal processing, sustainable practices, and healthy food is what's key.

    Thanks for the good comments. Keep them coming!

  5. I don't even trust McD's to be honest enough about where their potatoes come from I mean, this is the same company that friend their potatoes in beef fat and called them vegetarian. They also explicity told vegan and vegetarian organizations that their fryers used on vegie oil. Think about their stats: "close to 95 of every 100 fries"? How do you even arrive at that kind of statistic. It's reeks of fudging to me.