Giveaways and Reviews

McDonald’s Moms All-Access Trip #1

I’m finally rested enough (and got some sun at the beach) to focus and share some quick thoughts on my first trip with the McDonald’s All-Access Moms program.  When discussing the outline and details of the program, I discovered it wouldn’t involve just one trip; instead the McDonald’s Moms (Maureen from Wee Welcome and Jill from Urban Mommies and myself) will be visiting several different locations over the next few months to get a better understanding of McDonald’s and their suppliers.  Ah, yes, that’s right – McDonald’s is more than a company that sells burgers, fries and Happy Meals – what about the brands, companies, and people behind the famous golden arches?  Where does the chicken in Chicken McNuggets come from?  What brand does McDonald’s partner up with to bring us their french fries and how are they processed?  The program promises “all-access” and while that may raise an eyebrow with some, I’m willing to check it out and learn what I can.

The first portion of this trip took us to the McDonald’s Canadian Head Office in Toronto, Ontario.  There, we met the host for this program, Nanny Robina, and got an overall look at what the week ahead would involve.  Portions of our tours, meetings with company execs and more are being filmed for broadcast on CityLine tv (full details here) so we also got introduced to the world of tv production which isn’t nearly as glamourous as it sounds.  I learned quickly that I would not fare well as a tv personality – I’m much too impatient.

After meeting some company executives, shaking hands, and meeting people I won’t remember most of the names of, we visited a Toronto McDonald’s restaurant to speak to a manager and ask some questions about day-to-day operations – how food is stored, how long exactly those McNuggets sit under the lights (the answer: 20 minutes) and what protocols are followed in cleaning McDonald’s Playlands (I learned they are thoroughly cleaned with a non-toxic cleaner (still waiting for more details on the cleaner as a reader has requested) every night and obviously cleaned during the day when unspeakable things happen inside them as well.  The visit was a good way to see how a McDonald’s restaurant operates and the pride in the management and staff

Next, the group was off to Chicago to visit the McDonald’s Global Head Office, Hamburger University (yes, really) and Innovation Place – where training procedures, restaurant procedures and generally everything McDonald’s is streamlined to be more efficient.

Global Head Office is where we met with Chef Dan, the man behind creating many of McDonald’s new items. Here is where we discussed some McDonald’s urban legends, asked what healthy initiatives McDonald’s is looking at for the future, and learned how McDonald’s decides what goes on their menu.  McDonald’s posts their food ingredients openly on their website, but it hasn’t stopped people from questioning certain rumors they may have heard.

So, I asked Chef Dan about the rumors and learned a few things.  Here is a summary based on our conversation as well as information received when I had additional questions after the tour.

Is the “100% pure beef” wording for McDonald’s beef just the brand name, a way for the company to lie about what’s really in the beef?
No. McDonald’s hamburger patties in Canada are made with 100% Canadian federally inspected beef. They are cooked and prepared with salt, pepper and nothing else – no preservatives, no fillers

Are Chicken McNuggets made with all sorts of chicken pieces?
Chicken McNuggets are made with white chicken breast meat.

What about MSG?
MSG was a widely used flavor enhancer several years ago. However, the growing scientific evidence of consumer sensitivity resulted in McDonald’s removing all added MSG in its menu items several years ago. Today, MSG is on a list of ingredients that should not be used when formulating products for McDonald’s.

It should be noted however, that other ingredients high in glutamic acid (such as hydrolyzed plant/vegetable protein, yeast extract, soy extract, etc.) may cause similar reactions to those sensitive to MSG. All these types of ingredients are shown in the Food Facts ingredient information found on the website.

And the You Tube videos of food that doesn’t seem to spoil?
Bacteria and mold only grow under certain conditions. For example, without sufficient moisture – either in the food itself or the environment in which it is held – bacteria and mold and associated decomposition, is unlikely. If food is/or becomes dry enough, it won’t grow mold or bacteria. In fact, any food purchased from a restaurant or grocery store or prepared at home that lacks moisture would also dehydrate and see similar results if left in the same environment.

McDonald’s asked Frank Schreurs, President and CEO of the Guelph Food Technology Centre, an independent well-renowned scientific resource centre, to offer his perspective on these claims. He stated, “It would appear that due to the low moisture, constant temperature and relatively clean environment in which the product was placed for the extend period, that these would be the primary reasons as to why the product did not change or produce any molds, fungus etc.”

Others have weighed in on this story as well. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of The Food Lab at Serious Eats completed a rigorous experiment and determined that “it means that there’s nothing that strange about a McDonald’s burger not rotting. Any burger of the same shape will act the same way.” She concluded that “the burger doesn’t rot because it’s small size and relatively large surface area help it to lose moisture very fast.” Here’s the link to the story: The Burger Lab: Revisiting the Myth of The 12-Year Old McDonald’s Burger That Just Won’t Rot (Testing Results!) | A Hamburger Today.

We all had many more questions about McDonald’s food (obviously) but know that this is what future trips are for too – we’re going to the facilities where the chicken, beef, and potatoes come from to ask direct questions of those specifically producing these products.

The Innovation Center was really interesting. In an unassuming warehouse a McDonald’s restaurant counter, kitchen, and drive thru are all set up exactly like they would be in any restaurant across the US. The employees there (approximately 100 on any given day) basically run through ordering scenarios in an attempt to streamline the entire process. Counter areas are made bigger because of scenarios involving travelers with suitcases, mothers with strollers, etc. Drive through times are cut down because of changes made in the kitchen as a result of testing the time from one window to the next, and more.

As the bloggers watched the process, one question came to our minds – the employees were using real McDonald’s food (after all, the food needs to be cooked, packaged, and arranged on a tray while being timed) but where was the food going?  The answer was, behind an area closed off with a blue curtain. Employees would walk in with their food, and out hands empty.

When I asked Kathy Fox: Director of Menu Management and Innovation, McDonald’s USA, LLC about this, she explained that many food items were given to food pantries, the staff there numbered 100 and ate a lot of the food, and whatever food that does not fall into those categories is part of the process for a more streamlined restaurant (in other words, the greater good).

Not satisfied with that response (no one really could say how much food was thrown away), we asked to see behind the blue curtain. Phone calls were made, higher-ups in the organization were asked, and in the end we were refused. The irony here is that it became a much bigger deal than it had been had we been able to see, learn what food is sent to the food pantries, and see how much food is thrown away every day in this facility. I get that in order to make things run smoother you need real-life scenarios, with food, and sometimes that food is thrown away. I understand that this happens every day. What I don’t understand is why we were not able to see such a simple thing and it left me unsettled.

Overall this first McDonald’s All Access Moms tour was a positive one. Yes, there were a few things that could have been done differently but the team we’re traveling with has taken our feedback. Ultimately, the biggest drama for me occurred because of ‘the big blue curtain.  I’m hopeful that in future tours (chicken facility, beef facility, french fry facility and more) those with the power to open doors leave them open for us.

When people have asked me why I choose to apply for this program, I explained that it was purely for my own interest. I’ve heard the rumors, I’ve wondered about You Tube videos and stories posted on the internet.

Unfortunately those who critique my choice to participate also decided on their own my reasons for joining. I did not join the program to tell people why they should feed McDonald’s food to their family, nor did I join to help McDonald’s convince you that their food is healthy . I’m not getting bonus Chicken McNuggets for every person I convince to eat one, nor is it my concern if you ever eat McDonald’s again or eat there twice a week.

I’m participating to learn what I can about this company, take the information home and determine if it sounds correct, legitimate or otherwise, and make a decision based on the info on whether we will continue to purchase McDonald’s food as a family.  I will of course share the information with my readers but what you choose to do with the info is ultimately up to you.


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  • Sounds like a very interesting trip. I think any huge company gets a lot of criticism and McDonalds certainly falls into that category. I don’t understand why anyone would critique your choice to participate in the program. Since when is it wrong to be willing to hear (and see) both sides of the story?!

  • I’m a curious (and I’ll even admit nosy) person too and I would have loved to do what you’re doing too, just for the knowledge and chance to know what happens behind the scenes for myself. I think it’s great that you’re taking the time to learn more about McDonald’s and share your finds with us. I love your honesty and can’t wait to see what else you experience and learn. (And yeah, I want to know what exactly is behind that big blue curtain too.)

  • So, it’s “All Access” except where there’s a blue curtain? Funny. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of your posts…it’s certainly interesting. And the reason the non-rotting burger wouldn’t rot IS because of dehydration….due to all the salt in the meat I’m sure.

    I love when food companies say things are preservative free but don’t consider salt a preservative. If they really want to try and make things healthier then they should forget about apple slices and start cutting salt.

  • I like McDonalds and my cousin runs the test kitchen for another major fast food chain so I already know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s all really interesting and I’m glad you are getting a first hand look.

  • I really appreciate that McDonald’s has added many “healthier” options to their menu in the past few years. While fast food should always be a moderation type thing, it’s nice to know that your choices are not limited to burgers and McNuggets.

  • Thanks for sharing, we are regulars at McD’s but I am thrilled that they are considering some healthier options. My son is already in love with the fruit and walnut salad.
    I do think you should talk to them about being paid in chicken nuggets for any converts lol
    I think anyone that judges you wanting to learn more is too narrow minded to give any worry to!!

  • I love this post and all the honesty you bring Tenille. You were refused the curtain and admitted you felt unsettled. Good for you and as a mother that fully allows her children McDonalds here and there, I love knowing the inside scoop!

  • My children are all adults now and have no health issues and had Mc Donald’s in their diet. Like a previous post wrote that it is all in moderation. I like the behind the scenes post.

  • the blue curtain is not suprising to me. global companies like mcdonalds are always willing to open their doors to show people what they are “really” like…until there’s something that will tarnish their image and then its hush, hush. i feel the same way with their policies. they are may sound nice at the executive level, maybe even the manager level, but for those of us who’ve actually been inside a mcdonalds restaurant, we know, that what looks good on paper, isn’t the reality of the situation. All their cleaning guidelines, safety policies, health codes….for example i have no doubt they have a policy in place that the play structure gets cleaned every night, but does it REALLY??? does it really…..i’ve worked for a global company and i know how they manipulate situations and tours of their plants when they have customers or visitors coming through. they clean the tour path and the rest is scary, very scary for a food processing facility as a matter of fact. i have no doubt that mcdonalds is operating in the same manner as well on its “all access tour”.

  • i like how they have adjusted their menu with healthier options. I feel that you are your own person, No one has the right to judge you for your own actions! still wondering whats behind the blue curtain!!

  • I love your complete honesty in sharing the good & the bad of the trip! I’m still unsure about that “non-moist conditions” stuff, since my bread molds FAST & isn’t moist at all, but then again I’m no scientist. I’m happy to know the chicken nuggets & beef are made with actual chicken breast & real beef, though.

  • I really appreciate this post. Yes my kids get McDonald’s once in a while, and I really have no problem with it. Do I think they are a pure company? Naw… but do I think they are bad? No. I look forward to more posts on this.

  • Very interesting post. Not surprise there is an area they wanted nobody to see. It’s a corporate secret; the curtain should have been yellow lol. Looking forward to your other posts. If everything would have been to perfect it would have been suspicious also. Thanks for all the details 🙂

  • This is awesome! I love that you got to go in and ask all these questions. Thanks for sharing. I have to admit I always wondered about the Chicken McNuggets…..

  • Gosh, how fortunate you were to have visited their preparation facility.
    The next time you are given the chance to question/visit a McDonald’s facility such as this one, will you question personnel about the United States procedures and practices, PLEASE?
    One burning question I do have for Mickey D’s is…in the United States of America, are ‘mealworms’ really used in their “beef” patties? That’s a rumor I have always heard and I would really like to know the truth???? PLEASE?!?!?!? Thank you!
    And thank you very much for shedding some light on this very “secretative” company, at least I think so. I truly enjoyed this posting. I look forward to future postings.

    • Hi Kimbuckjr – the beef information applies to both the Canadian and US products used – Chef Dan is based at the head office in Chicago so no worries, all info is relevant for US customers too.

      Gotta love those McDonald’s rumors though, I’ve sure heard my share over the years.

  • I love that you’re doing this. Myself I have always enjoyed a good big mac, and its nice to finally learn that the products are truly 100%, and I can tell people not to believe all the myths.

  • Sounds like it was a great trip!
    I do still question the answer to your chicken nugget quesiton though…
    ‘Are Chicken McNuggets made with all sorts of chicken pieces?
    Chicken McNuggets are made with white chicken breast meat.’
    I can’t help but think that fine, they might be made with chicken breast meat…but in what percentage? Is it 100% chicken breat meat…or less than that? If less than that, what makes up the other amounts!? Maybe they don’t have chicken pieces(ick!)…but perhaps they have meat from the thigh/drumstick? Basically, that answer is a bit too vague for me!

    • I asked, and I believe one of the mom asked and used the term “are there chicken beaks in there?” LOL

      We just put it out there the way we’d heard it!

      No, it’s 100% chicken breast meat, no other bits and pieces we were told.

  • I think this is all very interesting! I am always curious of the behind the scenes. I worked at a McDonald’s in town here when I was in high school. The reason the You Tube videos and other things DON’T bother me, because I know the process and even though I HATED wasting food, there were rules, it couldn’t sit for x amount of hours. It was MINUTES and then we had to dispose. Although the restaurant I worked was really good with giving the food to employees and watching peak times so that we didn’t over cook and have to waste. It was definitely a management thing for the store.

  • Wow I read your article and was jealous that you got to ask all the questions I’ve always wanted My nephew works at McDonald’s and always has good things to say about the company. I never believed the Urban Myths, but thanks for clearing them up anyway. When in a hurry we go and always enjoy our meal and I’m a huge fan of their Milkshakes..

  • What a really cool opportunity! Good for you guys and asking to see behind the blue curtain (all access right??). I think I would have the same reaction as you since it was obviously a big deal for them! Looking forward to hearing more 🙂

  • Wow, sounds like a very informative trip. Its great that you asked all the questions that I probably would have asked (everyone is curious about the rumors) and its great how you also mentioned that not everything is always as it seems. Nice to see someone cares enough about what we eat to see “the behind the scenes” deal.

  • I am very interested in following your McDonald’s experiences. McDonald’s has changed so much since I was a kid and I too have questions. I appreciate your honest thoughts and opinions instead of judgement. thank you

  • When I saw a commercial on television looking for moms to participate I thought how interesting it would be to get to check things out and I hoped one of the bloggers I follow would be chosen. I am so happy you are one of the moms because I know we will get the real truth from you. I hope they will truly give you “all access” and that you get to see what is behind the blue curtain.
    We all hear so many silly rumours about McDonalds. The one that made me laugh the most was when someone told me they thicken their shakes with feathers. I told her they probably don’t have the healthiest of ingredients but feathers wouldn’t be one of them!

  • Great posting. I’m happy to know they are posting their ingredients and that they are putting all their info out there

  • I’d glad you asked some good questions and hope you or another group gets to access American McDonald’s operations. About the humidity being a factor in decomposition, I have found perfect-appearing french fries that had evidently been under the seat of the car for weeks or months–in Houston, TX! Extremely high humidity and heat. Mold spores so prevalent that the local weather reports include a “mold spore count.” With all that, the french fries did not decay or grow mold.

  • how awesome that you can do this trip; I’ve heard many rumors myself including the Chicken McNugget being the
    worst thing you can order at McD’s(I heard and read this). Very nice to get an insider’s report.


  • Sounds like a awesome experience. My husband will be happy to hear that it’s 100% beef, he loves McDonalds and would eat it ever day if he could.

  • I actually love eating McDonald’s and I like how you framed some of this, but come on. It’s not real food. You should have read Fast Food Nation BEFORE you went on this trip. Add to this their totally evil marketing where they catch customers as toddlers. It’s a fun treat and can be enjoyed in moderation, but as a Mommy blogger, you should be much more responsible about making them look like anything but greasy fast food made with an abundance of chemicals etc.

  • I love it! I think its great you are getting to see behind the scenes. The whole big blue curtain drama is definitely interesting. I can’t wait to hear more about your journey.

  • Very interesting. Fast food restaurants get a bad rap, but it’s still a restaurant, with food and products made by people who take pride in their craft.

  • Thanks for the interesting insight. I still would never go to McDonald’s (or other fast-food burger chains), but it’s great that you could get some information to share.

  • You asked a question I have always wanted to know the answer about actually 2 of them one about the beef. Always wondered what was behind the 100% beef and the chicken mcnuggets partially answered was it white meat But what about the fillers? I heard there are curious if you got the answer from this question.

  • Sounds like an amazing trip- its great to learn all the things about mcdonald’s. Althought I’m sure they stretch the truth at times

  • Looks like alot of fun! I used to be a swing manager for McDonald’s lol

    behind the scenes stuff rocks! thanks for sharing!!

  • I have to admit, we occasionally take our family to McDonald’s. It isn’t often (maybe twice a year) but they have the great play area for the kids which is free and the toys that come with the kid’s meals are usually a big hit. I am also curious to find out more about what they put in their food (crazy sodium levels) and what types of processes are supposed to be followed for preparing and cooking the food. Even though I don’t always agree with McDonald’s choices (does anyone need 1430 mg of sodium and 46% of your daily fat intake in a single breakfast sandwich like the sausage, egg and cheese mcgriddle?) they do seem to be trying to improve their menu in a positive way. By letting people see what they are doing behind the scenes may help the people running the restaurants understand some of the concerns the public might have.

  • The blue curtain is unsettling to me as well, I dont like secrets and I feel this became the “Pink Elephant” for the tour…..needless to say all this talk about Mcy D’s food has made this preggers mom wanna go for a Big Mac and fries…mmmmm….oh i mean carrots and dip with a big glass of milk….

  • for all the good they tried to do by inviting bloggers, the blue curtain is going to overshadow anything they tried to do. unsettling.

    on the up side, this sort of reminded me of a mr. rogers neighborhood visit.

  • What a great post! It really gave me a whole different perspective on McDonalds – it’s nice to see they are willing to expose the truth; good or bad!

  • what an adventure you had with McDonalds I love learning things about a company when it is more than just what the public see’s going through the drive through. Thank you for sharing. we eat a lot of mc Donalds here with 3 kids and it’s good to know many of the items you discussed in your post. Thank you

  • Okay, I dont know what they are hiding either. And yeah, the hiding would make me more curious. Obviously all restaurants throw out food that has sat too long, or is returned or whatever, so food gets wasted. Obviously something like a composting/food scraps program would be better, but it happens everywhere.
    One question I have that may or may not be urban myth is around the conditions of the laying hens for the eggs. The conditions sound similar to those that circulate around a specific deep fried chicken place and I don’t know if they are true or not. My family doesn’t eat meat, but we do go to McD for breakfast and eggs are often a part of that.

    I cant wait to hear more of your journey.

  • What an interesting post, it is good to know that they are answering the questions and the rumors that have been circulating. It gives a whole new perspective to them…
    mariam_b1984 at hotmail dot com

  • Very interesting to learn more about a company than just what you see from going in. Remembering going there when i was a child and now bringing my own kids there. For sure family fast food to grow with and changing with the future of today.

  • Thank you for this information. The real beef and real chicken as advertised is a peace of mind. I want to know what is behind that curtain though.

  • Way cool info…. as it turns out my grade 9er needs to do a project on yukky fast food. May she site this blog for a reference if she chooses McD’s? Though we can’t eat there due to food allergies I sit here and am wondering about that blue curtain……that’s gonna drive me crazy! Thanks for sharing.

  • My hubby designs McDonald’s packaging machines as well as most all other fast food places so he tells me about things he has learned. I don’t believe the rumors anymore. I think they are started by competitor company’s anyway! LOL! I am how ever concerned about what is really in the ketchup! LOL!

  • Thanks for the interesting read. My favorite food at McDonalds is the Filet Fish. There isn’t much press about them, they must not be real popular lol

  • Hmmm…some interesting points there! I really have to admit…I’ve kinda been one not to support McDonald’s because I was concerned about what the food is made of but some points in your article make me think it isn’t so bad after all!

  • I personally do not have a problem with McDonalds, although some do. I see them as a choice people make- much as some eat at Hardees or at KFC or at Pizza Hut or any other chain.
    I do know a couple of people who have worked at McDonalds upwards of 20 years. They say they are treated fairly and paid a decent salary.
    Glad to know some things are donated to the food pantry, but that is odd about the things behind the curtain, I do hope they used it for animal feed and it didnt end up in the landfill.