Meat Extract in McDonald's French Fries


| 7 Comments
Over the weekend I went back home to Philadelphia to watch the first game of the Phillies playoffs in the City of Brotherly Love. While munching out while watching the game, somehow the topic of the love for french fries was brought up. My one friend mentioned that McDonald's french fries are so good because they include a meat extract in the ingredients. I didn't believe her but after some research, unfortunately, this news is true!

With some research, I discovered that this isn't old news, unfortunately, to me it was!
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Even though this fast food franchise claims since 1990 that its fries are cooked in pure vegetable oil, company spokesman Walt Riker said that McDonald's never said its fries were appropriate for vegetarians and always told customers that their flavor comes partly from beef.

Harish Bharti, a Seattle lawyer who filed a suit against McDonald's says the confirmation that the company uses beef extract to flavor its fries validates his case. Riker adds that using natural flavor as a synonym for beef extract is within federal food and drug administration guidelines.

The reason for this meat extract McDonald's claims is that in 1990, instead of frying their potato products in beef tallow, they started to cook it in pure vegetable oil but because of the lack of beef tallow, they included a meat extract in the actual potatoes. While the fries are not cooked in beef fat anymore, they do contain a small amount of beef flavoring. It is during the par-frying process that the beef flavor is added.

The main question consumers have is WHY?! Why would McDonald's add beef flavoring to french fries potatoes and hash browns? The taste of any fried food is largely determined by cooking oil and for years McDonald's had cooked its fries in 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil. This mixture gave fries a distinct flavor that the world craved. When McDonald's changed to 100% vegetable oil the taste of their fries was altered and in order to maintain the original flavor, a small amount of beef flavoring was added.

So for me this rises a question of clearness and integrity in the general restaurant and fast food business. It's obvious that including an odd ingredient such as meat flavoring is something that a lot of people with strict diets would like to be aware of but it's not common enough for us to be worried about. What other ingredients are included in everyday foods that we don't know about? Why isn't McDonalds' finding an alternative ingredient to bring the flavor back? Does including a meat extract in the french fries alter the nutritional value of protein and fat dramatically?




7 Comments

This is news to me too! I feel as if people with strict diets would not be eating at McDonald's anyways. I have friends who are vegetarians and they refuse to eat anything fast food due to the abuse on animals. I think that if you choose to eat fast food you are choosing to eat unhealthy. I found a little chart with the nutritional values of the different sizes of french fries. There is a small amount of protein and I wonder if it has anything to due with the meat extract.

Everything about McDonalds is bad. It doesn't surprise me that this company is lying about something. I feel like if you're vegan or vegetarian you should steer clear of McDonalds and other fast food places like it and head for a Subway. A popular documentary, What you want the link to say">Super Size Me, about McDonalds has brought light to the truth about McDonalds nutrition. Morgan Spurlock agreed to eat nothing but McDonalds three times a day for one month. He was required to consume every item on the McDonalds menu at least once within the month and to supersize his meals only when offered. As a result he gained 24.5 lbs, 13% body mass increase, cholesterol level of 230, signs of depression, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation on his liver. After 21 days Spurlock's doctor advises him to immediately quit the experiment to avoid serious health problems and compares him to a Nicholas Cage character in Leaving Las Vegas who drinks himself to death in a matter of days.

Ahh, noooo. As a vegetarian, this is so sad to me. I have not eaten McDonald's fries since I became vegetarian in June, but I do know that those fries are delicious and it's too bad I can't eat them now if I'm ever at McDonald's. They must be adding that meat flavor because people like the taste and why would they change something people like so much? People didn't want the fries to be cooked in beef tallow but they still liked the taste I'm sure. McDonald's probably thought switching to vegetable oil would change the taste too much.

I check labels because sometimes animal product in in food you don't exactly expect it to be in (like re-fried beans. Most have lard in them) but if companies can put meat in something and just call it "natural flavor" it's more troubling. It's hiding the real ingredients. Many food products contain "natural flavor" and this makes me wonder what exactly those flavors come from!

Katie, I've seen the documentary as well, and it all relates to what the fast food industry hides. Efforts in New York have been taken to regulate that calories per dish be available (at least on request). Do you think that's something that should be required everywhere?

WOW! I have been a vegetarian for about 5 years now and rarely eat fast food (especially McDonalds) but every now and then I indulge in fries and a Mcflurry. This is completely shocking and actually really annoying because not only because I have been unknowingly breaking my diet choice, but it is also another lie the fast food industry is churning out. When will they just come clean about what is in their products? I guarantee that the people who eat there regularly do not care and will continue to spend money in places like McDonalds.

I can't say I'm complaining, they make tasty fries. Here is some official information on what exactly "meat extract" means as far as nutritional fact listings: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/help/faqs_flavorings/index.asp#3

I never knew this, but honestly, I love fries way too much to care. They are delicious. However, it is a little scary how the fast food industry hides a lot of weird/potentially gross things. I don't eat fast food too often, but when I do, I always feel frumpy and gross. Check out all these crazy things the fast food industry does!

http://www.forensicsciencetechnician.org/30-scary-food-facts-you-need-to-know/

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