Upon first entering the expo at the 2007 American Dietetic Association's Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo, my eyes were immediately drawn to the golden arches shining brightly in the center of the 300,000 square foot room.
The McDonald's booth was an interesting one. I'm not sure they were aware that this was a nutrition, rather than environmental, conference. Their main two selling points were their sustainable farming practices and the fact that "many of their pre-cut apple slices" come from local farms.
Keep in mind that having sustainable farming practices does not make a company one whose farming is sustainable (in the same way that eating one vegetable a day does not make one a vegetarian).
And while the fact that many of their apple slices are local, their booth was missing the point. People don't go to McDonald's for apple slices. They mainly go for two things -- beef and fries. So, why not look into organic meats, or at least local and organic potatoes, if they are trying to wave the "we're green" flag (especially since livestock puts a tremendous stain on our environment)?
Besides, when was the last time you saw McDonald's advertising their apple slices to the average consumer?
In my opinion, Mickey D's was ignoring the obese pink elephant in the room -- the food they offer.
A fast-food establishment is never going to be "healthy". In fact, I don't think that should be their ultimate goal.
Hey, I'll be the first to admit -- their fries are delicious and I like to have them once every two or three months.
That being said, it's frustrating not seeing McDonald's make the kind of changes that could truly have positive nutritional consequences.
For instance, make all hamburgers with whole wheat buns and all breakfast sandwiches with whole grain English muffins. People aren't going to tell the difference because no one goes to McDonald's for the "delicious bread" -- people care about what's in between those two buns.
It wouldn' t hurt anyone to get an extra six grams of fiber with whatever hamburger they eat.
Also, why not relaunch their veggie burger, although this time with a non-meat patty that actually tastes good? When that mess came out in 2002, I was sorely disappointed. The patty was limp, flavorless, and drowned in all sorts of sauce. No wonder it didn't "perform well in selected markets."
Anyone who has had a Boca burger can attest to the fact that it resembles the taste and texture of meat. So, why not partner up with Boca -- or try to emulate their patties -- and see what happens, company of the Golden Arches?
Again, don't get me wrong. McDonald's should not try to disguise the fact that they are a fast-food joint specializing in burgers and fries. However, I can't help but believe many of their attempts at healthy offerings were shoddy, advertised poorly, and done simply to undo years of public scrutiny.
Although I can't discredit their attempts at working with local farmers, there's bigger fish to fry, er, bake.