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Could the McDonald's McDouble Actually Be the Greatest Cost-Per-Calorie Bargain Ever?

The "cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history."


Is McDonald’s McDouble cheeseburger (two patties, one slice of cheese, costs about $1) the “cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history”?

It would appear that way, according to arguments explained by New York Post columnist Kyle Smith.

“It has 390 calories. It contains 23g, or half a daily serving, of protein, plus 7% of daily fiber, 20% of daily calcium and so on,” Smith writes.

“Also, you can get it in 14,000 locations in the US and it usually costs $1,” he adds, referring to the cheeseburger as “one of the unsung wonders of modern life.”

The argument in favor of the McDouble’s greatness first appeared on the Freakonomics blog run by economics writer Stephen Dubner and professor Steven Leavitt

And the arguments are intriguing.

Smith first addresses those who suggest healthier alternatives such as “boiled lentils.”

“Great idea,” he writes. “Now go open a restaurant called McBoiled Lentils and see how many customers line up.”

“But we all know fast food makes us fat, right? Not necessarily,” he continues. “People who eat out tend to eat less at home that day in partial compensation; the net gain, according to a 2008 study out of Berkeley and Northwestern, is only about 24 calories a day.”

The McDouble's price/calorie tradeoff makes it the most price-efficient food “that has ever existed in human history," Smith notes.

"Junk food costs as little as $1.76 per 1,000 calories, whereas fresh veggies and the like cost more than 10 times as much," he writes. "A 2,000-calorie day of meals would, if you stuck strictly to the good-for-you stuff, cost $36.32."

Naturally, he expects all arguments in favor of the McDouble will come under attack from the usual suspects.

“The outraged replies to the notion of McDouble supremacy — if it’s not the cheapest, most nutritious and most bountiful food in human history, it has to be pretty close — comes from the usual coalition of class snobs, locavore foodies and militant anti-corporate types,” Smith writes.

“I say usual because these people are forever proclaiming their support for the poor and for higher minimum wages that would supposedly benefit McDonald’s workers. But they’re completely heartless when it comes to the other side of the equation: cost,” he adds.

Sure, organic foods are healthier, but they’re certainly not cheaper. Organic foods are fast becoming “luxury items”-- meaning they cost as much as “luxury items.”

Furthermore, many people don't consider the time involved in living off organic goods. Time spent cultivating and preparing organic goods is time not spent at work.

Smith continues:

For the average poor person, it isn’t a great option to take a trip to the farmers market to puzzle over esoteric lefty-foodie codes. (Is sustainable better than organic?

What if I have to choose between fair trade and cruelty-free?) Produce may seem cheap to environmentally aware blond moms who spend $300 on their highlights every month, but if your object is to fill your belly, it is hugely expensive per calorie.

He concludes his article by explaining that by attacking low-cost foods, the “social justice” crowd is actually hurting the poor.

“Fuel prices, like food prices, disproportionately hit the poor, so do-gooders do everything they can to raise energy costs by blocking new fuel sources like the Keystone XL pipelines and fracking. And they are always up for higher gasoline taxes and regulating coal-burning energy plants to death,” he writes.

“If the macrobiotic Marxists had their way, of course, there’d be no McDonald’s, Walmart or Exxon, because they have visions of an ideal world in which everybody bikes to work with a handwoven backpack from Etsy that contains a lunch grown in the neighborhood collective,” he adds.

Read Klye Smith's full McDonald's post here.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

Featured image Getty Images.


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