UPDATE: The Secret Behind Why McDonald's Hamburgers Won't Rot

The Secret Behind Why McDonald's Hamburgers Won't Rot

For some reason, McDonald's hamburgers are mysteriously unsusceptible to Mother Nature's inevitable toll of decomposition. Yep, you pretty much have to dip a McDonald's cheeseburger in acid if you want it to decompose. So we're left with the question: Why? Why does a McDonald's hamburger retain its original shape, color and texture after 12 years?

The McDonald's hamburger on the right is from 2008; the one on the left is from 1996.

If your curiosity was piqued by our previous post, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats has made a valiant effort in providing a scientific explanation for why the Happy Meal burger refuses to rot. 

UPDATE: The Secret Behind Why McDonald's Hamburgers Won't Rot

Lopez-Alt used the following variables to conduct a series of tests, using homemade burgers vs. McDonald's burgers:

  • Sample 1: A plain McDonald's hamburger stored on a plate in the open air outside of its wrapper.
  • Sample 2: A plain burger made from home-ground fresh all-natural chuck of the exact dimensions as the McDonald's burger, on a standard store-bought toasted bun.
  • Sample 3: A plain burger with a home-ground patty, but a McDonald's bun.
  • Sample 4: A plain burger with a McDonald's patty on a store-bought bun.
  • Sample 5: A plain McDonald's burger stored in its original packaging.
  • Sample 6: A plain McDonald's burger made without any salt, stored in the open air.
  • Sample 7: A plain McDonald's Quarter Pounder, stored in the open air.
  • Sample 8: A homemade burger the exact dimension of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder.
  • Sample 9: A plain McDonald's Angus Third Pounder, stored in the open air

UPDATE: The Secret Behind Why McDonald's Hamburgers Won't Rot

To read more about how Lopez-Alt came to his conclusion, click through. But the short answer is:

"The small size of a McDonald's hamburger is allowing it to dehydrate fast enough that there is not enough moisture present for mold to grow."

Which coincides exactly with McDonald's official response to all the hoopla. A little anti-climactic maybe, but mystery solved.

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that's absurd! food items with FAR less moisture than that decompose eventually. this is scientifically not plausible and therefore circumvents the actual reason, that being, the food served at MacDonald's is SO processed, SO unnatural, SO incredibly artificial and synthetic, that it should NOT be eaten. Real food decomposes. Period.

Wow. You have no idea what you're talking about. Under the proper dry, cool conditions, most bio-degradable foods will dehydrate, like the hamburger in the article. Put those foods in a moist, warm environment, they will become moldy and degrade.

Do a little legitimate research before stating your opinion as undeniable fact. Period.

Actually Karolina, if you would have launched the link "Serious Eats," you would have seen the extent of his lab procedure. To save everyones' time, launch the link and scroll to the bottom where you'll see a Micky D's burger sealed in a plastic bag (to contain the moisture) and guess what... it rotted with mold all over it. While he performed a legit study, you sought out information from non-credible sources that conform to your uneducated opinion about fast food. Then you consulted Microsoft Word for the thesaurus function to use unnecessary vocal thinking that you'll sound smarter, but you just sound like one of those roadside activists that hold signs chanting their extreme view only to get nothing out of it but people mooning them from the passenger seat window.

@jordan... your reply is excellent, but the question remains... is this something we should ever eat?

The basic elements and nutritional components of foods are the same. (i.e., a hamburger is a hamburger).

The issue is the amount of fats, sodium, etc. that you add to your food. No, you wouldn't want to eat a Big Mac for every meal, but you wouldn't want to eat granola for every meal, either.

A hamburger with lettuce and tomato, skip the mayo, as part of a balanced meal is fine.

never, ever, ever is there a need to eat an item so vile. regardless of what the actual ingredients are, (100% beef?) all the additives, the astoundingly poor conditions of factory farms and just plain lack of taste is something i would think that wold turn people off. in 'supersize me', the guy eats only mcdonald's for a month. he gains 27 pounds, but the more startling information is the fact that eating just mcdonald's decreases his liver function among other things. in just a month. scary. 'food inc' which came out last year, showed how billion dollar corporations have changed the way we produce food. it's bigger, better, faster and full of chemicals. how sad. 8 year old girls do not need larger breasts than me (i'm small) and an extra 6 inches of height. i asked my roommate how much her 'value meal' cost ($8) and whether it tasted good (it's food... she said). i don't understand why she would pay so much for something that does not taste good, is not healthy and is expensive. i live off $6 or less worth of food a day and it's somewhat healthy

but it's no where near perfect. farm factory processes apparently make food cheaper, but they are just economically hurting today's farmer. someday i hope we will see the light and start producing food in a healthier way.

Thank you Amie. I also agree to admit that McDonalds is definitely not a solid meal replacement. I also think that the important part of this is that it all depends on one's current situation. If you want to lose weight, The BigMac would not be a step in the "right" direction; similar to one born with a family history of heart problems is discouraged to use stimulant drugs... not that Meth is something to be encouraged to anyone lol.

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