When waxing poetic about the menu items of fast food restaurants, adjectives like “nutritious” and “bountiful” are seldom chosen. Yet an economist has agreed that McDonald’s double cheeseburger “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.”
Stephen Dubner, co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics, was intrigued when one of his blog readers suggested that the McDouble represented a good value when one considered the nutritional value in relationship to price.
And so Dubner took on the task of analysis. The McDouble has 390 calories. The two beef patties and cheese provide a combined 23 grams of protein. It also contains fiber and calcium, though in smaller amounts.
Kyle Smith, a New York Post columnist, weighed in and praised the McDouble. “For the average poor person,” he wrote, “it isn’t a great option to take a trip to the farmers market to puzzle over esoteric lefty-foodie codes. Facts are facts – where else but McDonald’s can poor people obtain so many calories per dollar?”
“The more I thought about the question, whether the McDouble is the cheapest, most bountiful, and nutritious food ever,” Dubner wrote, “the more I realized how you answer that question says a lot about how you see the world, not only our food system and the economics of it, but even social justice.”
The debate has started a wide variety of people talking.
Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, joined the conversation. “The biggest unreported story in the past three quarters of a century [is] this increase in availability of food for the common person,” he wrote. Presumably he’s addressing the proliferation of McDonald’s stores. There are close to 37,000 worldwide, and they serve an estimated 68 million people each day.
Others were not on the McDouble bandwagon. Tom Philpott, an organic farmer from North Carolina, pointed out how inexpensive rice and lentils were, and how you could buy a pound of each for the same price as one McDouble.
And he wasn’t impressed with the McDouble’s footprint, either. “In order to present to us all that burger, you’re talking about a vast army of working poor people.”
His argument wasn’t persuasive. If Dubner is any judge, the McDouble is “the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history.”