Boysen 1 Andrew Karl Boysen Professor Elmore English 105 30 October 2006 Writing Assignment 2 Version 2 Fast Food Gone Healthy: America’s Oxymoron? A person is hungry, they need a quick fix, lo and behold they happen to see those bright golden arches not too far in the distance. The person stops, pulls up to the drive through, and the speaker box begins asking them for their order. It’s the sad truth about fast food. The market is chock-full with hungry consumers on extremely tight schedules with “instant gratification” mindsets. One variable, the fast food market never could have predicted was a “healthy American”. Everything is now sorted into increments of one hundred calories conveniently put into separate packages for the new health-conscious men and women of the twenty first century. In the beginning, fast food markets preyed on a booming new market hungry of hamburgers and milkshakes- new staples in the American diet. Companies such as McDonald’s- the founder and leader of the fast food market- began with ad campaigns that focused on “juicy” burgers and large portions. Now the same chain displays clean-cut logos and markets salads more often than its original burgers. Fast food chains are forced to change according to social trends to meet the new demand of the consumers. McDonald’s was and remains a revolutionary idea. Founded outside of the city of Chicago, McDonald’s has grown into a cultural phenomenon. It began just like the picture depicts. On North Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, the first McDonald’s franchise was opened in the 1940’s, marking the beginning of the restaurants amazing expansion. With large golden arches soaring above opposite sides of the restaurant, it can be hard to miss while driving along any street. A beautiful, young woman is depicted Boysen 2 being handed a juicy hamburger. (It is comical to note that America had also begun worrying about germs around the same time, thus explaining the napkin used to hand over the burger.) In McDonald’s infancy, the idea of being health conscious was unheard of in most cases. The hamburger is prominently displayed in the advertisement. The phrase “Try this for sighs” demonstrates how portion size did not matter to Americans. Consumers wanted the satisfaction of being “full” that came with a “sigh” after finishing a burger from McDonald’s. Consumers did not know how many calories were sufficient for the meal. “Calories” was a foreign word to most men and women. The advertisement is very tasteful and gives a positive image to the newborn fast food chain. As McDonald’s flourished and fast food became increasingly popular, the chain introduced the innovative new product that will forever hold a place in pop culture – the Big Mac. Boysen 3 The arrival of the Big Mac marked the beginning of oversized portions in America. The burger was enormous- constituted of three buns, two meat patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, “special sauce”… McDonald’s was not kidding in their ad when it said “A Meal disguised as a sandwich”. The larger the burger was, the better. Somehow, Americans associated size with quality. This picture vividly shows just how monstrous the new burger was; the ad had been designed to make one salivate. The catch phrase present in the picture also depicts the growing trend amongst fast food suppliers – promptly supplying the costumer with food. Even if the product was unhealthy by nature, it still tasted awfully good. Hamburgers represented America. As a product of the innovative country, hamburgers were a part of the American identity and even represented the United States when fast food chains went global. With the expansion came even more fat and calories. Fast food was getting unhealthier, and marketing agencies were improving their skills in attracting costumers. Boysen 4 From past to present, competitors in the fast food industry have marketed extremely large sandwiches such as the “BK Stacker” featured below. These monstrous sandwiches appealed to men; and marketing departments realized this at an early stage. Men inherently have eaten more. Men, on average, require 2500 calories of daily energy intake and women require only 2000 (“Calorie”). In fact, these “larger than life” sandwiches have become a part of being masculine. About two decades ago, Wendy’s found that Americans had become dependent on fast food. The public craved burgers and Wendy’s would give it to them. Piled high with three patties, two slices of cheese, all the toppings, and Wendy’s special ingredients, the “Classic Cheeseburger” faired extremely well on the market until the health craze hit the United States. Wendy’s and other chains realized their unhealthy ways and began introducing new healthy options. However, some fast food chains attempted to find their place in the ever- consolidating industry by maintaining their original fast food image. The “BK Stacker” is Burger King’s new way of making up for depleting sales in a market driven by McDonald’s- larger than twice the combined worth of all major fast food chains combined. As salads become as popular, Burger King is still introducing new varieties of burgers to attract sales. Burger King has become a counterpoint to the healthy trend. Although Boysen 5 Burger King has not, other fast food chains are targeting salads with a vengeance. Looking back at social trends, one cannot ignore the powerful influence of the media. At the University of Chicago, dieting and food took center stage amongst researchers in the medical school. Analysts considered many factors until turning to students for ideas. A poll concluded that the media was to blame. Regardless of when and where the trend started, the media began focusing on very skinny individuals. The impact of this can be found in the growing number of diets that began appearing all over the country. Americans could not ignore that “skinny” was now trendy. Men and women alike began dieting and their fast food addiction could no longer be a part of their daily diet (“Student Polls”). As trends shifted throughout America, the public became much more health conscious. Although it was due to a number of factors including an increase in knowledge concerning the human body and trends found in the media, fast food chains were forced to follow the new trend. A poll taken in 2004 showed at that point in time, forty-three percent of Americans believed fast food was to blame in the nation’s obesity problem (Survey by Gallup Organization). In response, chains, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, introduced an innovative new line of healthy options. Amongst these new options were salads, a now popular meal in America. The goal of the new marketing campaign was to dissolve the conception that fast food chains were Boysen 6 unhealthy. As numerous Americans became “calorie counters”, McDonald’s responded by displaying calorie, fat, and other nutritional facts on the sides of all their products. The new advertisements commonly used words and phrases like “garden”, “fresh”, and “healthy options”. Ads were more streamlined such as McDonald’s new advertising campaign called “Salads Plus”, a new menu including healthy alternatives. McDonalds –especially- has introduced many options for the “soccer mom” generation. Highly targeted is the Happy Meal that now features alternatives like milk, apples, and yogurt to replace fries and soft drinks. The trend in America has caused a decrease in marketing burgers and fries (some may remember the battle between McDonald’s and Burger King to find the best new recipe for fries) and an increase in salads and parfaits. When Americans were asked if fast food companies offered healthy options how likely they would be to select them, the majority, 56%, said “yes” (Time Magazine and ABC News). Typically, fast food chains use their marketing departments to focus on such surveys and work on incorporating the results into a “better” business. One cannot help but notice that as time progressed, fast food chains displayed an increasingly minimal amount of advertisements featuring their more unhealthy options. The concept is simple and fundamental to any business. Supply and demand controls the market. American consumers demanded healthy options and fast food chains responded. The irony of the whole situation is that fast food is inherently unhealthy. Milkshakes high in sugar, deep-fried french fries high in saturated fat, and burgers containing high amounts of fat and calories are the fundamentals of the industry. Even some salads that are deceivingly healthy contain numerous calories in the dressing or lots of sodium in Boysen 7 ingredients such as bacon bits. McDonald’s attempt to inform consumers about their calorie intake through nutritional facts posted on the products ended in a lawsuit when the fast food giant was caught lying about the saturated fat content. Even health conscious people feel the need to splurge sometimes, and they immediately think of McDonald’s and french fries. Little do they know, but a large fry at McDonald’s contains six grams of saturated fat and the recommended daily intake is four grams. Although the fast food industry has introduced healthy options to their menus, another trend in food threatens to counteract the benefits of eating “healthy”. Unfortunately, there are two sides to eating healthy. One is eating “healthy options” like those found in modern fast food chains that are lower in calories and fat. The second is portion sizes. Portion sizes in America have drastically increased according to a number of independent research groups over the past few decades. From 1977 to 1998, portion sizes increased in soft drinks by forty-nine calories, hamburgers by ninety- seven calories, and in french fries by sixty-eight calories – all major staples in fast food (Nielson). Throughout the nation, the biggest battle in college history is underway. Construction workers, university officials, and benefactors alike have teamed up to fight the war against obesity; and their biggest enemy is…fast food. The lives of college students are fast-paced and very demanding. No wonder fast food has become a staple in the diet of students eager to save a couple of minutes in their daily routine. For some, especially students who live in dormitories, fast food is the only alternative to the college cafeteria- that seems to need no explanation when students want to avoid the establishment. In response, universities have constructed “state of the art” wellness centers packed with fitness programs, cardiovascular machines, and weights. Boysen 8 You will always need that quick fix and that drive-thru will always seem to pull you in time after time. The fast paced lifestyle preset in America is a breeding ground for fast food. Americans will always have health on their mind, but at times the temptation may be too great. McDonald’s will continue to try and create healthy fast food, but they will never compromise taste. What tastes good usually is not good for you. It’s America’s “oxymoron”. Fast food gone healthy, we shall see. Boysen 9 Works Cited "Calorie." Wikipedia. 28 Oct. 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calorie>. Nielson, Samara J., and Barry M. Popkin, PhD. "Patterns and Trends in Food Portion Sizes, 1977-1998." Jama & Archives. University of North Carolina. 27 Oct. 2006 <http://jama.highwire.org/cgi/content/abstarct/289/4/450>. "Student Polls" University of Chicago Harper Library. 2002. 26 Oct. 2006 <http://students.uchicago.edu/pastpolls/weight.html>. Survey by Gallup Organization, July 7-July 9, 2003. Retrieved October 30, 2006 from the iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut. <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/ipoll.html>. Survey by Time Magazine and ABC News, May 10-May 16, 2004. Retrieved October 30, 2006 from the iPOLL Databank, The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Connecticut. <http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/ipoll.html>.