Fine dining fans will be thrilled to hear that the world’s most famous restaurant – McDonalds – has just made a bold pitch for the haute cuisine end of the market with the release of two new burgers made with prime export-quality Australian Angus beef.

It's time we stopped treating this man like a common criminal.

“Served on a sourdough bun and with gourmet trimmings for $6.45 and $6.75 respectively, the burgers represent a premium option for cost-conscious diners” a Maccas spokesman said this week.

Many people will think this latest marketing ploy is a disgrace. And I agree with them.

Not because I’m worried that the Golden Arches is trying to lure unsuspecting healthy folk into its store with the promise of nutritious food.

But because it goes against the wholly defensible core service which McDonalds provides – to serve really tasty junk food to people like me who enjoy eating it, and have no qualms about feeding it to their kids.

The introduction of Angus beef burgers at Maccas is an example of the vaguely sinister psychological techniques practised by marketing executives the world over. The availability of a healthy option isn’t really about driving sales of the new products. It’s about challenging the perception of the other products that Maccas sells tonne after tonne of stuff that is extremely high both in delicious fat and tasty sugar.

But there’s a sense of subliminal virtue in sidling up to the counter next to an Alessi-style stainless steel bowl of granny smith apples – which might as well be made out of plastic for the number of times you seen anyone actually buy one – and ordering yourself the new and excellent double quarter pounder, which is now available with bacon.

And the knowledge that you could hypothetically order the McDeli Wrap and an apple juice with a granny smith to munch on afterwards makes it seem somehow more acceptable to step foot in the store, especially if you have the kids with you.

Ditto the availability of apple slices as the alternative to french fries in the Happy Meals – which as any parent knows, are a great way to start a massive fight in the back of the station wagon, when you casually suggest to the kids that the apple might be a better choice than the chips.

Of course it’s not a better choice.

No sane adult would order the apple slices, so why should poor innocent children be forced to eat apple?

Apples or Angus burgers or lattes or perhaps even the introduction of a new Mctruffled omelette – these things are an affront to the very reason millions and millions of Australians frequent McDonalds on such a regular basis.

I’m not talking about the lazy, thunder-thighed parents who negligently take their kids there every other day – but the rest of us who think there’s nothing wrong with going there every so often, even once a week, to grab a box of nuggets, a junior burger, have a quick discussion about which toy they want with it, crumble to their demands for chips instead of apple, and then head off to the park with the footy or the kite and run around for the rest of the day.

This kind of behaviour – perfectly legitimate mainstream behaviour – is in the crosshairs of the health professionals, who are being urged on in their anti-fat crusade by sections of the press.

British columnist Amanda Platell caused a massive stir with her Daily Mail piece this month saying that parents who fed their kids Maccas were effectively committing an act of child abuse.

It’s rubbish – her argument, that is, not the food.

The problem isn’t feeding kids junk food – it’s feeding kids junk food all the time, in an environment where they are allowed to live like pint-sized couch potatoes, where the closest they get to any form of physical activity is playing on the Wii, where the idea of exploring means surfing the net on Club Penguin or Facebook, rather than rummaging around in the garden with the Bug Catcher.

You can mount a strong argument that, if your kids are almost manically active, as they should be, it’s a great thing to give them a diet which is filled with high-energy foods that are crammed with sugars, and heavy on the fats, so that you can keep them on the go.

Perhaps the problem isn’t the food that they eat but a combination of molly-coddling and paranoia which prevents kids from engaging in cool outdoor activities.

There is a terrific book by American journalist and outdoors nut Richard Louv entitled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv chronicles how a combination of laziness, baseless fears about crime, urban density and the lack of green space, has conspired to create a world where kids are almost barred from ever leaving the house.

It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened – literally, in the space of one generation.

As a kid we would happily gorge ourselves on all sorts of garbage, half a box of barbecue shapes after school, a dripping tin in the fridge for fry-ups, all that stuff. None of it mattered because we basically lived on our bikes and would ride through a national park on our own for hours after school, making jump ramps over the creek, and come home so exhausted we would fall into bed. And when we weren’t doing this we’d be out on the street playing cricket for three hours, or over the fence at the park kicking the footy until it got dark.

The attacks on junk food which are coming from the health lobby don’t go to the core of the problem, which is keeping kids active and away from the damned computer. All they do is impinge on the rights of the overwhelming majority of parents who, if pressed, would sheepishly admit to giving their kids Maccas or Hungrys, which is not even remotely a problem if it’s part of an active lifestyle and a generally healthy diet.

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    • Steve S says:

      08:20am | 28/08/09

      An excellent article.  Without wishing to be seen as depositing uric acid in your pocket, virtually every item that you write appears to hit a chord with me, provided you don’t allude to a friend’s sms etc.  You don’t neccesarily express politically incorrect views, just pure common sense and thank God you’re back doing so in the Tele every Wednesday. I much prefer you as a columnist as opposed to an editor.

    • Adam Dennis says:

      08:30am | 28/08/09

      I too spent most of my days away from the watchful parental eyes, doing mad and often inadvisable things in the semi-bush setting of my metro fringe suburb. A Sydney friend of mine recently expressed his worry about his boy not being able to expend his energy much as you did as a kid. The concern is about too many hours on the computer. My observation was that as they live in a third-floor apartment in a very urbanised area, the lad has limited opportunities for going out and raising hell without getting into serious trouble. Most kids don’t have a national park to ride through, so ... what’s the solution?

      I agree with your premise but I worry that the weekly macattack easily becomes bi-weekly and more ... and the family doesn’t have the time to spend the day at the park with a kite or footy. There’s a huge challenge here, and it deserves a bit solution; but not a government-imposed one. Whole suburbs of adults and kids need to get together and brainstorm answers, work out how the kids can have the freedoms they need to exercise and develop healthily without necessarily being supervised all the time. Crack this problem and the concerns about junk food with dissolve like ten grams of sugar in the bloodstream of an active eight year old.

    • Rudy B says:

      08:49am | 28/08/09

      Having just returned from the states, and seeing a documentary on what went into “Mickey-D’s”  (months of) testing and perfecting the new Angus line of burgers, I wholeheartedly degree. I dont think Jamie, NIgella and Gordon combined could have spent so long and so much on getting a burger “just right”. Theres something weird about as much research going into a burger as going into a cure for cancer. Give me a cheeseburger any day.

      On another note, I cant wait for Hungry Jacks/Burger King to bring out their latest offering in the states here - Apple Fries!!  Apples sliced to look like regular fries and served in the familiar fries cup (there is not actual frying involved). Caramel dipping sauce included, of course. Where will it end?

    • Ron says:

      09:24am | 28/08/09

      Notice how it’s invariably McDonalds that are exclusively in the firing line? Even after the release of salads, deli choice, apple slices, that the knockers want to keep knocking. They could offer McSouffle or McSushi, but it has nothing to do with the health content of the food. It is the same tired old anti-capitalist (S11 and G20 in Melbourne - what were the first outlets that were targeted with egg pelting and staff intimidation?), elitist, snobbery that lumps junk food together with all the new-age ‘guilty pleasures’ such as turning on a light bulb or watering a plant.

    • jonathan says:

      09:32am | 28/08/09

      good article penbo.
      the “obesity epidemic” has two very simple solutions: eat less, move more.
      too many fat kids doing nothing, too many fat parents doing nothing with their kids.  too many fat people buying gym memberships they never use while they drive the 2kms to the shop to buy their fat fast food.  too many fatties buying 24 packs of coke for their fat kids to wash down their cheezels with.
      Obesity isn’t a disease: it’s laziness pure and simple.

    • Peter says:

      09:39am | 28/08/09

      Pembo, as usual, hits the mark nicely.

      Now on to the next vendetta.  Get rid of that BS “we make it fresh for you” - which is really code for: “you’ll have to wait in line longer than you would at Hungry Jacks to get your meal because we want to reduce our costs in relation to surplus inventory”.

      Once, I could go in, they’d pick the pre-made burger off the shelf and I’d be out of there in 60 seconds.  Now, it’s wait, wait, wait, while a queue of Maccas staff forms waiting for ‘their’ burgers’ to come through.

    • Mick Hogan says:

      10:14am | 28/08/09

      Spot on. I live in the Blue Mountains and I am a parent. Thanks to the one percenters and the anti democracy we live in, my kids katooomba footy team is sponsored by the Macdonalds 40 kilometers away. The mung bean ferals and the slow food “anti`s”, sponsor nothing for kids. No sport, no culture and absolutely no entry to their shops or “restaurants” Where is the “Mung Bean House”, for families members to sta while loved ones recieve treatment? Where is the feral “holiday retreat” for patients and families of terminally ill kids?

    • DG says:

      11:27am | 28/08/09

      Kids are no longer allowed to do anything for fear of breaking an arm or leg, getting a scratch or, god forbid, dirt under their nails. The stuff I managed to survive as a kid would have my parents turned over the Police for prosecution - push-bikes off the end of a jetty at a lake, push-bikes off the end of anything that was followed by a drop of less than 2m (there was one exception from a rock overhang into a river that would have been a good 5m drop, but hey it was fun), swimming, riding all over the place, climbing trees etc and this is from about the age of 10.

      Now the riding a bike off the jetty is too dangerous, as is the good ol’ bike jump (a bit of old floor board propped up by a few bricks under one end) - climbing trees is also prohibited and Council parks have nothing more adventurous than a flat grass area (for fear of being sued).

      But it’s not just activity that’s being curtailed - I recently saw an advertisement for an alcohol hand was that was suitable for kids. WHAT THE? As a kid I figured I’d washed my hands if it given them a good rub on my shorts (which in all likelihood were just as dirty as my hands).

      Perhaps we need a new political party on the front line: The “Let kids be kids” party. With the following policies:
      (1) no child under 13 shall do any homework unless they have gone out and had a good kick around with the footy/bike ride etc,
      (2) the kicking of a football should be assessable at primary school - as should throwing a netball/basketball, running a lap of the footy field, riding a bike with no hands and backyard cricket,
      (3) subsidising local sports clubs for kids (so that they can actually afford to play team sports),
      (4) calisthenics every morning before classes start,
      (5) kids may only buy junk food from the canteen if they have a note from their teacher confirming that they have participated in the weekly challenge (i.e running 5 laps of the oval, played football for the whole lunch hour)  - the brilliance of this is that the lazy kids can see the good stuff but buy nothing more exciting than celery sticks and slices of apple,
      (6) no parent shall prevent a child from stupid behaviour (i.e climbing trees) unless that behaviour is almost certain to be fatal (i.e no taking the radio into the pool) - kids learn from their mistakes, let them make a few.

    • TDMJ of Canberra says:

      04:27pm | 28/08/09

      Thank you David.  THANK YOU!  Your post hits the same note as my increasing frustration with the banning of so-called junk food at tuckshops. 

      Like DGs childhhood outlined above - back in my day wink our weekly lunch order from the school tuckshop was a great treat.  Usually on Fridays, you’d happily scrawl a request for a hot dog or sausage roll and a choccie milk all over the front of a brown paper bag, then drop a few coins inside.  Marvellous fun! 

      And of course we weren’t obese.  Because we only did this once a week.  Because we didn’t have lazy guilt-ridden parents making up for the lack of time spent with us by throwing us bucket loads to spend on junk every day.  And because we didn’t sit around on our @rses playing computer games and watching (one of only two channels on) the telly. 

      Instead we ran amuck until the street lights came on and our parents called us home. Yes, seriously.

      Now some brainiac thinks banning such treats at the tuckshop is the way to tackle childhood obesity.  Come ON!  Our kids are getting fatter so it’s obviously not working.  Gee whiz, I can’t wait til my children can trot along to the tuckshop on a Friday to grab their lunch order of a salad wrap, water and portion controlled mini-bag of fruit and nut mix.  Hurrah.

    • Andy says:

      05:42pm | 28/08/09

      That Mighty Angus burger is bloody delicious best maccas burger ive ever eaten, get out there and give it a go! but better have a run afterwards.

    • Julie Coker-Godson says:

      06:18pm | 28/08/09

      I wrote this blog in response to another article on The Punch but it seems to be quite appropriate for this one.  “I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, that once the wowsers have defeated the smokers, they’ll run out of things to winge about and they’ll start on something else.  We now have the School Lunchbox Police, The School Canteen Police, The Fresh and Healthy Food Police (getting a head of steam up here with food vouchers! Watch out!), the Exercise or Die/be labelled a Sloth Police.  Tell me, how do you exercise while reading a book? Oh!....we are not supposed to undertake sedentary activities…please forgive me…I must go and puff myself out until I’m puce in the face….good girl! Away you go!
      I’m sick to death of all these obsessed people trying to dictate to others how to live their lives by using the oldest trick in the book - the guilt complex.  Those who don’t kowtow are a drain on the health system that the healthy do gooders have to pay for.  I resent that line of argument as I believe it is palpably false!  No two researchers can come up with the same results in a report on these issues whether the report comes from USA, the UK, Australia, Canada or anywhere else for that matter.  So my advice to these people is to GIVE IT A BLOODY REST!!!!  PS:  The saying: “Never disturb a sleeping dog” is an excellent one and should be adhered to by these fanatics.

    • Julian Thomas says:

      12:40am | 29/08/09

      had the more expensive angus burger today, but in a value meal so paid the same price as the grand
      was yummy, but 2360KJ, 50% daily fat content, high in salt too

    • Jeremy says:

      12:10pm | 09/03/12

      For snacks my kids love fruit. I think they get it from their dad. They love all kinds and are ylwaas willing to try something new. If we don’t have any fruit they have granola or yogurt. I am much worse at eating sweets for snacks. My 6 year old ylwaas wants to know if something is healthy.For breakfast they usually have cereal and milk or pancakesfor lunch usually banquet tv dinners or leftoversdinner is ylwaas different but a favorite in my house is sausage,eggs, pancakes, hashbrowns and juice.bacon74(at)1stopmom.com

 

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