McDonald’s is one of the most recognized fast food chains on the planet. Known for its World Famous fries, Big Macs, and Happy Meals, the golden arches is home to many iconic meals, but that also means the chain isn’t immune to a fair share of criticism or controversy. While plenty of anti-McDonald’s health claims have merit, there are many that nothing more than tales. Here, we bring you the 40 most super-sized myths about McDonald’s. For more fast food facts, guides, and healthy eating tips, subscribe to the Eat This, Not That! magazine and get 50 percent off the cover price.
McNuggets Are Made From Slime
The truth is McNuggets aren’t made from pink slime but white boneless chicken. Some believe this myth came about when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver showed a pink substance called lean beef trimmings—which are parts of beef that you can’t remove from the bone—that McDonald’s used as fillers for their burgers. McDonald’s discontinued using beef trimmings in their burgers in 2012, but they were never added to the McNuggets. Want to know how chicken nuggets are really made? Check out this video.
McDonald’s Beef is Ammonia Treated
McDonald’s used ammonium hydroxide to help separate the meat from the bone in their lean beef trimmings and make it safe for consumption—a practice that was deemed safe by the USDA. But in 2012, the company stopped using lean beef trimmings altogether, and as a result, the use of ammonium hydroxide, too.
Big Macs Never Rot
The idea that McDonald’s burgers, buns, and toppings never decay has become great social media fodder over the years, but there’s little science to prove it. People who have tested it have generally come to the same conclusion: Most burgers won’t rot in dry air because it eliminates the moisture necessary for bacteria and decay to form. But we don’t recommend eating anything that’s been sitting out for a number of days, even hours.
The Burgers Contain Cow Eyeballs
This myth likely caught fire because people want to believe that giant chains would do anything to keep profits low and use undesirable cow parts like the eyeballs. McDonald’s is transparent about the parts of the cow they use in their dishes, and eyeballs aren’t on the list. And given how much beef McDonald’s buys and how little of a cow is in its eyeballs, it’s safe to say this claim is fiction rather than fact.
Worm Burger Filler
The word on the street is that the Golden Arches includes ground-up worms to supplement their beef as a cheaper alternative. But just like the eyeball theory, this one doesn’t hold up the economic test because worms are actually more expensive to buy per pound than beef. Several satirical media outlets will drum up this story from time to time to get clicks, but it’s nothing more than an urban legend.
Human and Horse Meat in Burger Patties
When Huzlers, a site which allows people to create prank news stories, ran a piece claiming that an Oklahoma City McDonald’s had used both human and horse meat in their burgers, the news spread like fire on social media and not everyone was sharp enough to realize it was all a hoax.
Molten Copper Can’t Destroy a Big Mac
This myth started from a YouTube video, which shows someone pouring molten copper over a Bic Mac sandwich. Many people assumed that the molten copper would melt the sandwich, but it stays intact, drawing conclusions about the preservatives in McDonald’s foods. But the actual cause is called the Leidenfrost Effect, where the moisture in food evaporates rapidly, creating a vapor layer that insulates the food from the molten copper.
Their Supplier Is Called 100 Percent Beef
There’s a small part of the Internet who believe that McDonald’s doesn’t use 100 percent real beef in its patties. The theory is that McDonald’s buys its supply of beef from a company called 100 Percent Beef, so they can use the tricky wordplay on their customers. This claim is not only false but McDonald’s supply chains are fairly transparent about where they source their ingredients.
The French Fries Don’t Decay
Like the myth about their burgers, America’s favorite fries have gained a social media reputation for having an unnatural shelf life. Sure, your fries won’t grow mold or bacteria if it’s stored in a dry environment, but would you really go for two weeks’ old crispy spuds to satisfy a salty craving? We didn’t think so.
The Fries Contain Beef
McDonald’s did use beef tallow—a rendered cow fat—to fry up their famous crispy sides but they discontinued the practice in 1990, thanks to the health industry’s battle against saturated fat. To replace beef tallow, the chain resorted to using vegetable oils with trans fats, but we all know about the trans fat ban. Today, you’ll find “natural beef flavor” in the World Famous fries and other McDonald’s dishes. What’s in it? We’re not sure, so any intel would be great.
McDonald’s Fries are Vegan
Just because the fries don’t use beef tallow it doesn’t mean they’re safe for vegan consumption. McDonald’s actually uses “natural beef flavoring” in their fries in both the U.S. and Canada. Because the flavoring is actually made from milk, the fries are vegetarian but not vegan. If you want vegan World Famous fries, head across the pond, where they don’t add beef flavoring to their spuds.
Their Fries Only Contain Potatoes
Natural beef flavoring isn’t the only thing you’ll find in McDonald’s fries. While the first ingredient is potatoes, they also contain a vegetable oil mix, salt and sodium acid pyrophosphate, which is used to maintain color. That said, McDonald’s isn’t trying to hide these ingredients because all of them are listed on their website.
McDonald’s Throws Away Tons of Potatoes
In a 2014 video by famed food writer Michael Pollan, he argued that McDonald’s picked only perfect potatoes for their fires and threw the rest away. This is half true because McDonald’s is picky about the potatoes they use in their fries.
McDonald’s Creates Toxic Fries
Pollan’s video also illustrated that McDonald’s farming practices involved spraying potatoes with pesticides so strong that farmers had to stay away for five to six days. Once again, he’s half right, except that it’s standard farming practice to stay away from any pesticide for that amount of time. If that scares you, it might be time to consider buying organic produce.
McDonald’s Potatoes Produce Greenhouse Gases
Pollan’s video also highlighted that McDonald’s stored the potatoes in greenhouses for weeks or months. According to Pollan, storing them in a greenhouse allows the pesticides to evaporate. But the real explanation? Farmers want to be able to sell potatoes year-round and keeping them in the greenhouses helps keep them fresher longer.
They Paid Over $1 Million in a Coffee Lawsuit
In the early 1990s, a woman sued McDonald’s for serving her extra-hot coffee that gave her third-degree burns. Stella Liebeck initially asked for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses, but when McDonald’s countered with $800, she took it to trial. The jury awarded her $2.7 million (which is what grabbed the headlines), but the judge lowered the amount to $480,000 and they ended up settling for an undisclosed but smaller amount.
McDonald’s Coffee Isn’t Very Hot
After the coffee lawsuit, reports came out that McDonald’s coffee was 40 to 50 degrees warmer than other restaurants, which served theirs at 190 degrees. Since then, McDonald’s has changed the way they heat their coffee.
McDonald’s Doesn’t Use Real Eggs
Despite theories that the perfect egg circles in Egg McMuffins are from frozen discs of something other than egg, the answer is much simpler. You crack an egg into a mold and it cooks into the perfect 360-degree sandwich. The Golden Arches even came out with a marketing campaign a few years ago showing exactly the process to get to each egg dish.
Paul Horner Was a Spokesperson
The News Examiner published an article with quotes from Paul Horner posing as a McDonald’s spokesperson, stating that the move was a cost-cutting measure. But McDonald’s denied the claim. Horner inserted himself into fake stories for years, even claiming to be the secretive street artist Banksy.
Ray Kroc is the Founder of McDonald’s
Ray Kroc is an American icon in large part for his role in making McDonald’s the largest fast food chain in the world, but the truth is he wasn’t the founder of the original restaurant. Richard and Maurice McDonald were the founders and opened several franchises before Kroc bought the chain and made it into a worldwide brand.
The First Location is in Des Plaines, Ill.
Many people claim that the first McDonald’s restaurant was in Des Plaines, IL, but it was actually the first store that Kroc opened since creating McDonald’s Systems, Inc. The oldest store still operating is in Downey, CA. This was the fourth store founded by the McDonald brothers, which looks very different from the way the chain looks today.
Danish Employees Make $45K a Year
A meme on Facebook claimed that McDonald’s workers in Denmark have a union and make $45,000 per year. This myth is actually partially true on several fronts. Danish workers do have a union, and their hourly wages are high enough that a full-time employee could earn $45,000 per year or more. The catch is that there are only about 500 full-time McDonald’s workers in Denmark, out of about 4,000 total, so most don’t come close to this figure.
The Big Mac Special Sauce is Secret
One of the key ingredients in the famous Big Mac is the special sauce. Some customers have taken “special” to mean that the sauce is a secret recipe, but like many “secrets,” McDonald’s has been fairly open about this, even posting a video with their executive chef making the sauce.
Their Holiday Cups Were Obscene
Some myths are started because of a single photo. When one user posted a picture of a McDonald’s cup with some drawn-on fingers that turned innocent mittens into a risque illustration, McDonald’s debunked the myth with an equal amount of humor.
McDonald’s Is A Lot Healthier These Days
Many fast food chains have tried to shed their unhealthy label with marketing campaigns around what they deem as healthier items, like leafy green salads and grilled chicken sandwiches. However, a study tracked McDonald’s health data over a 14-year period, showing that levels of sodium, sugar, and fat have gotten only marginally better.
McDonald’s Funded Terrorists
This one is a simple case of misunderstanding an acronym on a CNN broadcast. When a commentator praised McDonald’s for contributing to their employees’ individual retirement accounts (IRA). The rumor mill did the rest, with many in the U.K. thinking that McDonald’s was sending money to the Irish Republican Army (the other IRA), a known terrorist organization. Luckily for everyone, McDonald’s is sending its money to much less nefarious places.
McDonald’s Uses Mutant Laboratory Animals
The Internet is to blame for the rumor mill that McDonald’s gets its meat from hairless, limbless animals. Unlike some myths that have photo evidence (doctored or mislabeled), McDonald’s has never really felt the need to respond to this rumor because it’s probably just a little too far out there.
Using Pig Fat In Their Ice Cream
One popular myth is that McDonald’s uses pig fat in their soft serve, whether for filler, taste or just to create culinary abominations. This one has been asked enough times that McDonald’s in New Zealand put out a video debunking this myth. The chain did change up their ice cream recipe last year, but the changes didn’t make the ice cream healthier or laced with pig fat.
No Apples in the Apple Pie
Among the list of fake ingredient claims, this rumor that’s been circulating for decades might be among the tamest. The myth claims that McDonald’s uses potatoes or pears with flavoring in their baked apple pies. Like several other myths, the company’s transparency in their ingredients makes it relatively easy to disprove.
McDonald’s Owns Chipotle
When Chipotle was just a fledgling chain with 14 stores, McDonald’s swooped in and bought a controlling share in the burrito franchise. But in 2006 when Chipotle had more than 500 franchises across the country, McDonald’s divested its interest in an effort to better focus on its core brand. So while the narrative that Chipotle, which is renowned for its ingredient quality is owned by one who has fought off weird ingredient myths for decades is ironic and fun, it hasn’t been true for 12 years.
McDonald’s is Unhealthier Than a Sit-Down Restaurant
Many think of McDonald’s and other fast food chains as the symbol of everything wrong with the American diet. But this Drexel study in 2014 actually found that sit-down restaurants are just as unhealthy as their fast food counterparts. If you’re watching your waistline, it’s probably best to eat at home or figure out how to cut a few calories from your fast food order.
The McFlurries Are Dairy-Free
Another example of wordplay leading to ridiculous rumors has caused many to think McDonald’s doesn’t have dairy in their shakes, simply because they don’t call them milkshakes. However, the company has dispelled this one, too, since the soft serve used to make the milkshake does contain milk.
Chicken Feathers Are in McDonald’s Shakes and McFlurries
It seems there’s no part of an animal that someone hasn’t accused McDonald’s of using somewhere in their menu. This theory started in the late 90s when one Internet user said that a friend who was allergic to bird feathers (which is apparently a thing) got sick from a McFlurry. Some other theories have credited chicken feathers with providing the fluffiness in the ice cream dishes, but the only fluff is the rumor itself.
Their Salads Are Healthy
Sure, a side salad at McDonald’s can come in at under 100 calories with the right dressing. But an entree salad will usually run around 500 calories, and dressing packets can pack on up to 300 more calories. That’s more calories, sugar, and sodium than a Big Mac and a small fry.
It’s Cheaper Than Cooking at Home
With its convenience and items on the value menu, it would be easy to think that McDonald’s is always cheaper—and easier—than cooking at home. However, with combos running five dollars or more, it might be cheaper (and better for you) to whip up a convenient slow cooker meal that’s ready when you walk in the door.
They Want to Get You Hooked
If food is so tasty that you can’t put it down, there has to be something in there to get you hooked, right? Well, in the case of McDonald’s, Internet theorists have claimed that the company purposefully puts secret ingredients in for the sole purpose of getting customers addicted. The truth is far less evil, even if it isn’t more appetizing
Most McDonald’s Workers Are Teenagers
You probably imagine an acne-faced teen asking if you’d like fries with that. However, the average fast food worker is almost 30 years old. Many are single parents trying to earn a living, not kids looking for some spending cash.
It’s Easy to Rise Through The Ranks
Despite hiring campaigns by McDonald’s, more fast food workers are on the front line than in most other industries.