Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: McDonald's hamburgers contain worm meat.
Origins: Common sense should tell us this rumor is false. Pound for pound, earthworms cost more than beef — it doesn't make sense to use a filler that is more expensive than what's being replaced.
Ah, but rumors don't rely upon common sense. It's the "yuck!" factor that gets us, and so the earthworm (sometimes kangaroo meat) additive rumor has long bedeviled McDonald's. (In some locales, the local Jack in the Box is fingered instead of McDonald's.) Dating to 1978 (it might well be older
Adding credibility to these tales, many corporate rumors include the names of television news or talk shows — either the rumor was investigated and found to be true by [name of investigative show] or the CEO of whichever company appeared on [name of talk show] and admitted [horrifying thing]. One wonders at all these CEOs with something to hide showing up on talk shows. One also wonders at the prescience of those who book the guests, for one wouldn't think a chat with the relatively anonymous CEO of a large corporation would make for that interesting a show.
As to what kind of damage a rumor like this can do, the experience of one owner of four McDonald's in Atlanta, Georgia, was typical. Back in 1978 he saw his sales plunge by 30% and consequently had to lay off about a third of his employees. Corporate rumors aren't victimless.
McDonald's did what it could to refute the lie.
[Newsweek, 1978]Said the Financial Times in 1982: "The story gained such wide circulation that McDonald's held a press conference to rebut it and even obtained a letter from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture attesting to the pure beef content of its burgers."
At an Atlanta press conference, McDonald's officials, backed by a regional officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, denounced the rumors as "completely unfounded and unsubstantiated," and swore that the company's hamburgers contain nothing but beef.
Perhaps the final word on this subject should belong to Ray Kroc:
Ray Kroc, who bought McDonald's from Mac and Dick McDonald in 1955, added his own assurances: "We couldn't afford to grind worms into our meat," he countered. "Hamburger costs a dollar and a half a pound, and night crawlers six dollars."
Barbara "would you like fries with that?" Mikkelson
Last updated: 28 January 2007
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.
Also told in: