McDonald’s: A Good Image with Bad Ethics
Introduction McDonald’s Corporation has been growing and spreading internationally for the past three decades. Although McDonald’s seems convenient, cheap and clean there are many negative aspects of the business. In spite of paying their employees low wages and negatively impacting other cultures, McDonald’s and chains like it, have managed to position themselves as a positive piece of Americana. McDonald’s promotes its positive image and products with greasy fries, and a clown named Ronald McDonald. The unethical practices of this large fast food corporation are known but do not seem to detract from the all-American image that the corporation seeks to project. History In the 1950s a new style of eating was introduced by brothers, Dick and Mac Donald. Their original small burger stand was soon transformed into one of the largest, well-known transnational corporations. Ray Kroc, a milk shake machine salesman bought McDonald’s from the Donald brothers and made the burger shack into a business characterized by conformity and uniformity. “Kroc … believed fervently in the ethic of mass production” (Schlosser, 2004). Under the influence of this mass production ethic, McDonald’s developed new, uniform production methods such as using frozen beef patties, instead of fresh ground beef, and developing a genetically-modified potato rather than using locally grown produce to ensure that all McDonald’s fries have the same uniform taste.
“McDonald's Corporation (McDonald's) is the world's largest foodservice retailing chain. The company is known for its burgers and fries which it sells through 31,000 fast-food restaurants in over 119 countries” (McDonald’s Corporation, 2006). With so many McDonald’s located world-wide, many find it somewhat refreshing to see a familiar place when traveling in unfamiliar places. By homogenizing products and appearance of the stores, McDonald’s sells this feeling of comfort and familiarity. Spreading Out to New Markets Because it is internationally known and markets a homogeneous image, McDonald’s remains a household name with offerings known for a uniform taste. But McDonald’s is trying to reach a broader market as well. The corporation is trying to reach out to a healthier crowd of customers by releasing salads with fruits and vegetables. To reach international customers, the company has also added specialty foods for different countries. “The McArabia (chicken patties on unleavened bread with garlic sauce and onion), the McPepper (a double-patty burger seasoned with black pepper sauce), the Bulgogi Korean pork barbecue sandwich, a teriyaki pork burger with lemon-flavored mayonnaise, and, soon to find its way onto the menu, the Mushroom Pinwheel, a five-pointed pastry concoction filled with chicken and mushrooms, are all specialty menu items for different cultures in some Chinese or Middle Eastern countries” (Old McDonald’s has some smarts in China, 2006). McDonald’s also donates a portion of their earnings to Ronald McDonald houses, located across America, which helps children with life threatening illnesses. Efforts like this portray a corporation committed to the welfare of their customers. However, while the overall image of McDonald’s is that of a wholesome, family oriented business, there are contradictions to this image.
The Ethical Problems Big Business Domestically Although McDonald’s makes the effort to support children with life threatening illnesses, the diet offered by this corporation and others contributes to obesity, heart disease, asthma, and possibly mad cow disease. What kind of message are we giving our children when we promote healthy eating, and “at least 59 of the nation's 250 children's hospitals have fast-food restaurants?” (Tanner, 2006) Environmentally, McDonald’s practices are also questionable. Unlike a fresh ground beef patty at a local butcher shop, “a typical fast-food hamburger patty contains meat from...
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