Flaw in the Hamburger calculation:

Surely with demand this high, McDonalds is turning more than the usual 10-15% of some cows into hamburger.

While a traditional butchering proces may involve slaughtering the cow and shipping the sides of beef to the grocer/butcher where the butcher carefully slices and dices until he’s left with 10-15% unsuitable for cuts and tosses that into the grinder.

With the demand for ground beef sky high due to the numbers of McDonalds around the world, there simply have to be whole cows (at least the meaty bits) that are just tossed into the grinder.

As proof I offer the observation that For each hamburger I eat, I do not eat 2 lbs of steak. Its unreasonable to assume that for each hamburger anyone eats, someone(s) eats 2lbs of steak (or other beef cuts).

Interesting, but then if hamburger is let’s say $1.50/pound (I keep kosher, so I really don’t know), and prime cuts of meat is $5.00/pound, why would McDonald’s pay $5.00/pound for something it can get $1.50/pound for? I postulate that McDonald’s never tosses the whole cow into a grinder and grinds up prime rib and sirloin.

The proof is that hamburger is extremely cheap compared to other cuts of meat. If McDonald’s really used so much hamburger that hamburger meat is rare, the price would go up and cost more than even the most prime cuts of steak. Then, and only then would McDonald’s be forced to grind up prime cuts for steak.

This is what happened to chicken wings. Chicken wings were the hamburger of the chicken. It was what was left over when you took off the breast, thighs, and legs. No one wanted them, and they were dirt cheap. Bars started selling the cheap chicken wings in spicy sauce to help get their patrons thirsty for the more profitable beer.

After a while, chicken wings became the dish of choice for sports fans, and specialty chicken wings restaurants opened up serving nothing but chicken wings. This has caused the price of chicken wings to spike, and now – wholesale wise – they cost more than boneless chicken breast (the sirloin of chickens). Now, the very same restaurants that sell wings are forced to sell boneless wings which is boneless chicken breast cut up into strips to be like chicken wings.

Don’t they use older dairy cows as well? Even the better cuts from those would be cheaper.

Just to note, that column was written in 1977. When “classic” columns are rerun, there is sometimes a tiny bit of updating, but they’re not rewritten or even significantly revised.

Why is that unreasonable?

I wonder how many potato’s are used by McDonald’s? One large potato might make two large orders of fries. So, maybe divide the number of burgers by 2?

More than 3 billion pounds a year.

qazwart said:

While that is probably a factor, my impression is that “boneless wings” are chosen because they are easier to eat, what with being boneless. They’re still small samples because the patrons are wanting finger-sized food and the correct ratio of breading/sauce to meat.

Meat is just meat until it’s processed by a butcher. That $5-10/lb not only represents the proportion of the fine cut to the proportion of ground meat, but the butcher’s time to remove the cut properly. Traditionally Ground Meat is what is left over after the finer cuts are removed. But it takes less time and effort to remove the meat without separating out the finer cuts - bringing the price/lb down.

It’s clearly not a case of simple supply and demand on the cuts.

I’d buy the idea that the high end cuts are removed, but still that puts an awful lot of T-bones out there. But that only 15% of McDonalds cows become hamburger is simply not feasible.

In simpler terms Hamburgers represent more than 15% of the beef consumed in the world. Therefore more than 15% of the meat becomes hamburger.

Linked Study: [http://www.nebeef.org/post/lfu/beefs_role_improving_overall_diet_quality.pdf](Nebraska Beef)

Roughly 37% of beef intake is hamburger. (Extrapolated from Table 1 of the above document)

This means one of several possibilities: among them are:

  1. Cecil got his numbers wrong. (Unlikely)
  2. Cecil got his numbers from a supermarket butcher and his numbers represent how a Supermarket Butcher cuts meat. McDonalds sources must use more than 37% of their cows for ground beef. Knowing Mcdonalds beef tends to be leaner than supermarket meat loosely supports this idea.

Quite correct.

The Prime & Choice cuts of meat used in fancy restaurants come from the best beef cattle. Young, grain or grass-fed, bred for beef production.

Most dairy cows are shipped when the cows are older, past their productive life – you’re not likely to find a single cut of meat from them that can be graded as ‘prime’. Nearly the whole cow becomes hamburger. Often they even need to add cuts from a beef animal to increase the fat content to the desired percentage – dairy cows are are very lean, not much fat at all on them.

This is also true of older beef cattle – the best ones, that were used as breeding animals. When they grow old, they are shipped, too. But they are also too old to contain much ‘prime’ meat, so they often go mostly for hamburger.

  1. Cecil was writing his column in 1977, when considerably less of the beef slaughtered was making its way into hamburger. :wink: