I almost killed a guy yesterday. As an elevator-hater – the waiting is the hardest part – I always take the stairs when they’re accessible. So when the clock hit 9:15 a.m., with the promise of a burger and kickball-sized jumble of onion hay setting my facehole a-drool, I bounded through the stairway entrance with purpose and gusto… and promptly knocked the guy who found himself in the path of the inward-opening door into next week. Somehow, he was okay – his ability to pick himself up and reassume full stride suggested someone who was seriously jonesing for nicotine transmission via smokey treat – but it shook me up, man. I’m not a killer. I’m a writer. My adverbs have rounded edges.
In a nifty bit of philosophical-nutritional synergy, while my mind was still fixed on burgers and mortality I happened upon the most recent video volley in McDonald’s “Our Food. Your Questions.” series of dietary propaganda. Previous installments attempted to answer queries like “what are McRib patties made of?,” “why is the McRib seasonal?” and “where did the McRib come from?” These are all questions I have asked, usually when pondering secondary options as I encounter a 30-deep line at the bagel store after six beers. I love that McDonald’s has bothered to answer them and believe they should give the likable assistant archivist featured in the third clip a more prominent role in marketing materials of this nature.
(Related question for grammar technicians: What’s the possessive of ‘McDonald’s’? ‘McDonald’s’’? Writing it that way makes the apostrophes look like they’re attempting to mate.)
While I sincerely applaud McDonald’s attempt at transparency - the company has to know that any such effort is likely to be McFileted-O-Fish by Internet smartasses - “Our Food. Your Questions.” is, as my grandfather used to say, as subtle as a fart in a spacesuit. Worse, the videos raise more questions than they answer.
Take the “What Are Chicken McNuggets Made Of?” clip that originally piqued my interest. In the wake of stuff I’d sort of half-read on the Internet while doing four other things, I would have answered that question with either “pink anaconda slime” or “nothing good - maybe kangaroo tenderloin?” To stop these hurtful rumors in their tracks, this video takes viewers inside a Tyson Foods plant where McNuggets are McBirthed.
A “skeptical” narrator accompanies Amy the Nice Tyson Plant Supervisor Lady as she walks us through a production cycle. We see the mechanized meat-melding vat - mmm, swirly - and the imposingly organized batter/breader conveyor belt. We visit the nowhere-near-as-erotic-as-it-sounds “sensory kitchen” in which McNuggets are sampled before being sent out into the cold, cruel world. We learn that leavening agents “aerate the batter, and that’s what makes the nuggets really unique.” This, I believe, is the first time I’ve encountered the word “leaven” outside the context of a Passover Seder.
So we’re totally getting the inside scoop here, right? Any/all concerns that anyone might have about the nutritional provenance of McNuggets will be McDiscarded with the McRecyclables after seeing this? Not exactly.
For one, the narrator’s skepticism feels as authentic as an implant, even as he asks Amy, “Will you be mad if I told you I haven’t had a McNugget in a long, long time?” Later, when he grabs a copy of the aforementioned pink-slime photo and says, “See this? This is what people think the final step looks like. It’s got a completely different texture,” he comes across less as the impartial everyman he purports to be and more like Troy McClure touring Bovine University.
Then there’s the spell-it-out-for-the-unwashed-idjits moment when the narrator and Amy rattle off a list of McNugget ingredients. Actually, the clip doesn’t just rattle them off; it superimposes them on the screen, in a manner so obtrusive as to suggest that somebody was pressing for a “does not kill you!” asterisk to accompany them. But the real money moment comes a minute or two earlier, when the narrator and Amy survey a neatly severed chicken and stress, in a manner that cannot be misinterpreted or taken out of context, even by CNN, that McNuggets are made from white-meat chicken. And wouldn’t you know it - the clip ends with our narrator in a McDonald’s booth, where he concludes his summarizing monologue with “the reality is that they’re made with white-meat chicken. There’s no mystery… It is what they say it is.”
Watching the clip, I sensed that it was borne less out of a desire for full transparency than out of frustration - like, “We must not let the vegetarians win! Not now, not ever!” But if McDonald’s were really about full transparency, perhaps they would’ve cut over to a doctor or dietician at some point during the proceedings. Perhaps either such individual could add further enlightenment.
In any event, I’d steer the “Our Food. Your Questions.” series away from the Internet-rumor-debunking approach of “What Are Chicken McNuggets Made Of?” and towards the lighter, less agenda-laden feel of the origins-of-the-McRib clip. Along those lines, here are two questions I’d like to see answered: Has the Hamburglar been granted some kind of immunity from prosecution? And via what sort of electoral process was Mayor McCheese ushered into office? Get on it, kids.