Archives for McDonald’s



Print, Persuade and Post

My coauthor (and 16-year-old daughter) Antonia Ayres-Brown just published a piece in Slate about a project that started 5 years ago when we bleg’d Freakonomics readers to tell us about how McDonald’s refers to Happy Meal toys. Antonia was disturbed by the kinds of questions we encountered when we ordered Happy Meals at the drive-thru. We’d be asked things like “Is it for a boy or girl?” or “Do you want a girl’s toy or a boy’s toy?”

asked readers whether they encountered similar questions.  According to seventy nine reader responses, approximately one-fifth of the time McDonald’s employees did not ask a toy-related question.  But when employees did ask a toy-related question:

47.7%                    Asked “Is It for a Boy or Girl?”

31.8%                    Asked “Do You Want A Boy’s Toy or a Girl’s Toy?”

15.9%                    Described the toys in non-gender terms.

I’ve waited this long to report the results because Antonia have I have been engaged in a long-term project to encourage McDonald’s to describe the toys without reference to children’s gender. Read More »



How to Replenish 11,000 Calories

In our “A Burger A Day” podcast (which generated a lot of debate), we debated the nutritious merits of the McDouble. At least one Canadian finds that McDonald’s is a cheap and easy way to fill up. As Dan Fumano writes in The Province, Colin Pither tackled the challenging “Grouse Grind” climb 15 times in one day:

At the crack of noon on Friday, ten hours after Colin Pither finished his 15th consecutive Grouse Grind and tied the record for climbs in a single day, he rose from bed and began his greasy road to recovery.

“I’m pretty destroyed. But I’ve eaten like 20 burgers, so I’m a little better now,” he said.

By Pither’s calculations, he burned about 11,000 calories yesterday as he hiked almost 50 kilometres up and down the mountain. The average daily caloric intake required for a male his age is between 2,500 and 3,000.

So it’s understandable he’s a bit hungry.

You can see in the photo what Pither’s caloric intake of choice was.



The Burger Debate Catches a Second Wind

Remember this blog post in which a reader asked if the McDouble is perhaps “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”? It spawned a lot of commentary on the blog and we followed it up with a Freakonomics Radio podcast

Now the question has been taken up by many others, spurred on by a N.Y. Post column by Kyle Smith and echoed by, among others, Yahoo! and the Wall Street Journal in this country and, in the U.K., the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and the Times.

I have gotten about one zillion media requests to talk further about the story but I am busy writing so I had to turn them down.

If you scroll through the comments on the links above — the Yahoo! post has more than 4,000 comments as of this writing — you will likely be struck, as I was, by how great Freakonomics commenters are compared to the rest of the world. Literate, lucid, knowledgable, and even when you get enraged you manage to say something useful.

All hail the readers of this blog!



A Burger a Day: A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Marketplace podcast is called “A Burger A Day.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript).

A while back, we posted an e-mail on this blog from a reader named Ralph Thomas:

It has been my gut-level (sorry, pun) feeling for a while now that the McDonald’s McDouble, at 390 Calories, 23g (half a daily serving) of protein, 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and iron, etc., is the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.

This is the kind of statement that most people cannot help but argue with, in one direction or the other (but yeah, mostly in one direction). Is the McDouble really the modern miracle that Thomas suggests, or a food abomination, a perfect symbol of the over-engineered, overabundant food cycle we’re trapped in? Read More »



Does the McRib “Pork Price” Theory Make Any Sense?

The McRib is the Brigadoon of the food world, and inspires similar passion. Consider Willy Staley‘s long and entertaining report at the Awl, which wonders if the McRib’s very occasional appearances are related to low pork prices. Dan Hamermesh found this line of thinking sensible too.

But … really? Aside from the fact that the correlation between McRib reintroductions and pork prices isn’t very robust, I always wondered if a firm of McDonald’s size could be so nimble as to strike fast on something like this. In the comments on Hamermesh’s post, a reader named Jeff Birschbach tells us what he knows: Read More »



The Marginal Cost of the McRib

McDonald’s has reintroduced its McRib sandwich. Consisting of meat that at one point belonged to a pig, it is now on yet another farewell tour, its sixth since 2004. (Actually, the first three were called “Farewell Tour,” the last three have been called “Reintroduction.”) The website the Awl.com points out that the reintroductions of this unusual product have all coincided with downturns in the price of pork.

Seems reasonable to me: Mickey D’s assumes there is some best price for the McRib and compares it to the marginal cost, exactly as in our introductory textbooks. When the marginal cost drops sufficiently (and presumably the price of pork is the most variable item in costs), back comes the McRib. (HT to CVB)