In defense of a fast lunch

I don’t eat much at McDonald’s. I prefer other fast food options (namely a Wisconsin-based company whose products are superior except for their French fries). And we do buy food from the local farmer’s market.

That having been said, I think Kyle Smith brings up valid points while being amusing:

What is “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history” Hint: It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on.

Also, you can get it in 14,000 locations in the US and it usually costs $1. Presenting one of the unsung wonders of modern life, the McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger.

The argument above was made by a commenter on the Freakonomics blog run by economics writer Stephen Dubner and professor Steven Levitt, who co-wrote the million-selling books on the hidden side of everything.

Dubner mischievously built an episode of his highly amusing weekly podcast around the debate. Many huffy back-to-the-earth types wrote in to suggest the alternative meal of boiled lentils. Great idea. Now go open a restaurant called McBoiled Lentils and see how many customers line up.

But we all know fast food makes us fat, right? Not necessarily. People who eat out tend to eat less at home that day in partial compensation; the net gain, according to a 2008 study out of Berkeley and Northwestern, is only about 24 calories a day.

The outraged replies to the notion of McDouble supremacy — if it’s not the cheapest, most nutritious and most bountiful food in human history, it has to be pretty close — comes from the usual coalition of class snobs, locavore foodies and militant anti-corporate types. I say usual because these people are forever proclaiming their support for the poor and for higher minimum wages that would supposedly benefit McDonald’s workers. But they’re completely heartless when it comes to the other side of the equation: cost.

Driving up McDonald’s wage costs would drive up the price of burgers for millions of poor people. “So what?” say activists. Maybe that’ll drive people to farmers markets. …

Junk food costs as little as $1.76 per 1,000 calories, whereas fresh veggies and the like cost more than 10 times as much, found a 2007 University of Washington survey for the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. A 2,000-calorie day of meals would, if you stuck strictly to the good-for-you stuff, cost $36.32, said the study’s lead author, Adam Drewnowski.

“Not only are the empty calories cheaper,” he reported, “but the healthy foods are becoming more and more expensive. Vegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods.” Where else but McDonald’s can poor people obtain so many calories per dollar?

And as for organic — the Abercrombie and Fitch jeans of food — if you have to check the price, you can’t afford it. (Not that it has any health benefits, as last year’s huge Stanford meta-study showed.)

Moreover, produce takes more time to prepare and spoils quickly, two more factors that effectively drive up the cost. Any time you’re spending peeling vegetables is time you aren’t spending on the job. …

Fuel prices, like food prices, disproportionately hit the poor, so do-gooders do everything they can to raise energy costs by blocking new fuel sources like the Keystone XL pipelines and fracking. And they are always up for higher gasoline taxes and regulating coal-burning energy plants to death.

If the macrobiotic Marxists had their way, of course, there’d be no McDonald’s, Walmart or Exxon, because they have visions of an ideal world in which everybody bikes to work with a handwoven backpack from Etsy that contains a lunch grown in the neighborhood collective.

That’s not going to work for the average person, but who cares if they go hungry because they can’t afford a burger anymore? Let them eat kale!

There is one problem with Smith’s thesis: The McDouble doesn’t include bacon. (Sold separately.)

The point here is not the McDonald’s Double is superior to all other food. The point is consumer choice, something that liberals seem to oppose when those choices disagree with theirs. (See Bloomberg, Michael, Soda Size Regulations.)

If this makes you hungry, I believe lunch doesn’t start at McDonald’s until 10:30 a.m.

3 thoughts on “In defense of a fast lunch

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