Over the years McDonald’s has mastered the art of marketing bad food as good, processed concoctions as wholesome choices. And it’s operating the same game plan for the Egg McMuffin, which celebrates its 40th birthday this month.
Here’s the opening pitch from the press release: “The Egg McMuffin hasn’t changed much in 40 years. In fact, it can still fit into its original wrapper at just 300 calories,” says David Martinelli, McDonald’s USA Pacific Sierra Region marketing manager. “The classic sandwich still includes a freshly toasted English muffin, a slice of lean Canadian bacon, a fresh cracked egg, and a slice of melted American cheese, just like it did 40 years ago” — making it a “wholesome breakfast choice.”
There’s nothing to it, really — is the message McDonald’s wants to send. No crazy ingredients, no special equipment required. In fact our executive chef can show you just how easy it is to assemble one of these at home.
On Tuesday’s broadcast of “Good Morning America,” McDonald’s Executive Chef Dan Coudreaut walked viewers through some of the steps to making a “picture-perfect home version of the Egg McMuffin.” You drop a ring mold into a pan, crack an egg into it, pour water around the mold, cover the pan and gently steam until cooked into a “perfectly circular egg.” Next, you layer the egg and other components on a buttered, toasted English muffin, and there you have the classic breakfast sandwich.
What McDonald’s would have us believe is that this, more or less, is the way it’s done in its restaurants. It had the Huffington Post, for one, convinced:
So, here’s pretty much how Coudreaut describes the secret recipe: just make a breakfast sandwich.
We’re only half kidding here. There is no “secret sauce” involved. How do they get their eggs perfectly round? They cook them in a ring. How do they get their Canadian bacon perfectly round? They cut it. With a ring… How do they make their English muffins taste so buttery? GUYS — they put butter on them.
So now you know how to make your own Egg McMuffin at home.
Actually, they don’t put butter on the Egg McMuffin, and there is, in a sense, a secret sauce involved. In the press release, McDonald’s boasts that it uses “the same quality ingredients it did 40 years ago.” It’s a statement that’s meant to be reassuring, but same quality doesn’t equate with good quality.
Few Americans are under any delusions that the bacon (processed with sodium nitrite) and the cheese (labeled as “pasteurized process American cheese”) on the Egg McMuffin are healthy, but the bread (or “English muffin”) and the egg aren’t any good, either.
The English muffin by itself contains more than 30 ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial flavors, azodicarbonamide and calcium peroxide. It may be “freshly toasted” but it’s hardly fresh.
As for that “fresh cracked egg,” — the one we supposedly watched executive chef Dan cook on the morning show — it’s prepared with an ingredient called liquid margarine, which is made of liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate, artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate and beta carotene.
In other words, it’s an egg that’s cooked in trans fat, gets its taste from artificial flavor and holds its shape with synthetic emulsifiers and preservatives. How’s that for a fresh egg?
A key tactic of McDonald’s marketing strategy is to cover up the facts with a good story. And the fast food giant does, undeniably, know how to weave specious stories. This one is about a classic breakfast sandwich that recalls the halcyon days of simple, wholesome food made with good ingredients.
The fact, however, is that the Egg McMuffin isn’t anything like what you might make at home from scratch. The fact is that each of the components — bread, egg, cheese and bacon — is industrially processed before being combined to make the sandwich. The fact is that McDonald’s food is never as simple, straightforward or wholesome as the company makes it out to be.
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