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The case of the not meat...meat

Background:  While chowing down on our usual assortment of non-good-for-you foods we wondered what was really in the meats of the McDonalds meat.  Someone did sort of have a direct answer as they have heard that depending on the franchise owner (dependent on section of a specific town and whatnot) they can use either real beef or a substitute soy beef.  Wondering if this is true we are determined to see if what we have been eating for the past few years might actually be good for us in some way...we cannot stand for this outrage.


Edwin Amirsaleh came up with this philosophy as to what exactly is in McDonalds meat.

First of all, they're not using a soy substitute for beef; they would have to say that and plus why would they? That soy beef substitute stuff isn't nearly tasty enough. If you love you soy curds and gluten, be my guest and order the soy burger which they do have as an option, but I wouldn't recommend it.

You might be surprised to find out that it is indeed straight-up, old-fashioned, real beef you're eating. When an ingredient is listed as "beef" (or "beef patty", as it were - look at the McDonald's website), the FDA requires it to actually be the muscular part of a cow, which is beef as we normally know it. Although it's probably a lower grade of meat than you would buy from the supermarket and cook yourself.

Generally the "dangerous chemicals" that the "evil companies" use in food are preservatives and food colorings and certain other things such as some kinds of dough-softeners. And yes they can be pretty malevolent at times. See below for more detail on the McDonald's meat stuff.

You might have heard of companies using all the other parts of animals (as in the organs and bones) for some food products, but this has to be listed as "meat by-product" or "poultry by-product" or "fish by-product" (i.e. the fast-food companies don't use these - they would quickly get screwed over by public outrage if they did). One would think that with all the cows they need to make all the beef for all the McDonald's in America, there would be a lot of this leftover "meat by-product" and nowhere to put it, but the food industries actually do a rather good job at making sure they use and make profit from the whole animal - meat by-product appears in a lot of pet foods and in some sausage products (such as hot dogs - check the ingredients labels if it really bothers you, even though it shouldn't as I explain below), and gelatin is made by putting bone and/or hooves and/or pigskins through some long chemical processes to hydrolyzes (split-up) the collagen proteins into smaller proteins, one of which is gelatin (i.e. gelatin is just a protein - don't worry about it being some dangerous unnatural chemical). The whole meat by-product thing may sound kind of disgusting, but the way I see it, all these parts of an animal are edible anyway - I mean, you don't complain when you go to a French restaurant and order a fancy dish involving calf liver or something, and the companies clean out the stomach and intestines if they ever use them, and the hooves and skins and stuff used to make gelatin goes through a really long chemical process of hydroxylation and isolation, so it's a far cry from disgusting meat parts when it's done.

You might have heard of them using flavorings in their beef. Of course food companies WOULD use meat flavorings if it existed, but the fact of the matter is it really isn't possible to make meat flavorings, even though they have thousands of fruit flavorings. The specific flavors of fruits and some other food items come from some pretty specific compounds - raspberry has one compound that makes it taste like what it is, strawberry has another, lemon has another, etc. (even rum has one). But the taste of a meat comes from the protein-and-fat structure of the meat as a whole. So really the only effective meat flavoring is just meat itself - the meat will sometimes be freeze-dried and powdered to make a somewhat concentrated "meat flavoring" - this is usually listed on ingredients labels as "beef powder" or "chicken powder" or whatever the meat is then "powder". I have never heard of any kind of meat flavorings other than meat powder, but rest assured if there are any they are either isolated from meat itself or are compounds that occur in meat just man-made instead (all flavorings work this way).

You might be worried about MSG, but when I looked at the ingredients on the McDonald's website, there was no MSG in the burgers or the grill sauce, although doubtless it's in some of the other sauces or the breading for the chicken and fish patties. But you don't need to worry about MSG anyway - it's just the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is an amino acid, which is what proteins are made out of. You may have heard a lot of stuff about MSG, but rest assured if it actually did do any of the bad stuff you've heard, you'd have already experienced it's "evil", since it's already occurs naturally in quite significant amounts in tomatoes and meat and other foods that are naturally savory. The only thing to worry about is an allergic reaction to MSG, which a few people have experienced because they didn't know they were allergic - but since it's so rare you shouldn't really worry about it. If you KNOW you're allergic to MSG then you should know that hydrolyzed wheat or corn protein and autolyzed yeast extract contain free glutamates (which is the "G" part of "MSG" and the part that actually matters). Also, the other "flavor enhancers" that you might have heard about, disodium inosinate and sodium guanylate or something like that, are again just the sodium salts of natural compounds, but this time of nucleic acids insteads amino acids.

Edwin then sent us another thought on eating McDonalds food.

I just emailed an answer to the McDonald's meat thing and I forgot to say that the stuff definitely can be very bad for you health-wise because it's very fattening, but that's your problem, you should only eat such fattening foods every once in a long while.

One thing that is indeed very bad for you that you might have heard of is partially hydrogenated oils. This stuff is very bad for you because it contains very high levels of trans fats (which don't even exist in food naturally) which are indeed very, very bad for you, and unfortunately this is what the fast-food places fry their fries in.

So to sum up everything that Edwin has shared with us... stay away from McDonalds... even though yes, it may indeed be some form of real beef, it is still dripping and over loaded with fat, clogging your arteries. So next time you get the urge for a burger, think about your health and get a veggie burger. Save the cows!

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