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Is it possible for McDonald’s food to be a substitute for itself?

by on May 18, 2012

While McDonald’s characteristics of efficiency and low cost secure its popularity, it fails to attract a significant number of customers due to health concerns. Regarding its suspicious meat and greasy fries, it is clear that McDonald’s sacrifices quality in order to deliver fast, cheap food. And the high amounts of sugar and fat used to make such a product have had an increasingly visible effect on Americans’ health over the years. In 1980, the year of McDonald’s 25th anniversary, the rate of obesity in America was 15%, the same percentage it had been for approximately two decades. Another twenty years later, an official survey in 2000 found that that rate had doubled to 30% of the population; by 2010, 35.7% of the population of the United States was to be found obese. A person is considered obese when his or her Body Mass Index measures at or above 30.

Numbers like these have led to harsh criticism of McDonald’s contribution to the astonishingly rapid weight gain that has seized the country in the last few decades. Although McDonald’s cannot be the only factor in this nationwide epidemic, as the biggest and one of the oldest fast food chains in the United States it now largely represents the unexpectedly ugly side of the American dream. In contemporary pop culture, books like Fast Food Nation prove that the problem has become too great to ignore. A documentary film, Supersize Me, was made in 2004 as an exhibited study of the negative physical (and even psychological) effects of McDonald’s fast food on the average American. There have also been numerous lawsuits since the early 2000s, claiming McDonald’s false advertisements of a healthy lifestyle in fact led customers to obesity and other symptoms of poor health. So when the world knows all of a company’s dirty secrets, what is it to do? McDonald’s decided to recognize the gravity of the situation and reform.

Reformation first began in 1987 with the addition of fresh salads to the mainly-hamburger menu. Although the health concerns back then were not voiced as strongly as they are today, it is noted that by this time, the country was starting to climb in obesity rates. In 2000, when the obesity rate was 30%, McDonald’s introduced a fruit and yogurt parfait as a healthier alternative to its own soft-serve ice cream and McFlurries. Later, McDonald’s would begin to serve apples and milk with its Happy Meals, in response to attacks that the company “unfairly entice[s]” children with free toys and rewards them with health problems. McDonald’s latest addition is the “Real Fruit” smoothie, which first appeared in 2010.

It is understandable that many potential and even regular customers would be turned away by the criticisms, but McDonald’s seems to support itself by making changes in order to draw them back again. Normally, people genuinely worried about their well-being would ignore the extra cost and opt for healthier alternatives such as Subway, Chipotle, and (in New England and several European countries) Pret A Manger. However, there is no need to as McDonald’s provides its own alternatives, and for much cheaper. So interestingly enough, McDonald’s inferior goods act as substitutes for real, home-cooked food, while its healthy options act as substitutes for its original menu.

Could McDonald’s finally be beaten if a new restaurant chain emerged advertising equally fast, equally cheap, but only healthy food?


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One Comment
  1. msmuntz permalink

    interesting analysis of substitutes. 10.

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