Healthier at Home: The Nutritional Content of Fast Food Burgers

You are driving along and suddenly the smell hits you; it’s a fast-food burger joint and your stomach growls.  America’s favorite fast-food is the hamburger, and there are definitely no shortages of different hamburger restaurants you can drive-thru or dine in, when the craving strikes you.

Have you ever wondered what is actually inside the burgers you buy at a fast-food chain?  We all know that fast food isn’t the healthiest option, when you compare it to meals you make at home, where you know everything that is on your plate.  Because you read the labels, and it matters to you to make healthier dietary choices every day.

We’re not suggesting that for real burger fans, the old-school diner around the corner with a large burger and fries should never happen.  What we’d like to share is that drive-through or fast-food burger franchises are focused on profit; not public health.  And when you are working hard to make changes to your diet that promote health and wellness, it pays to know what is inside the bag when you visit a fast-food burger franchise.

We’re fans of “Eat This Not That” and they published an interesting article that ranks the health of burgers sold by some of America’s largest fast-food chains.  In this article, we’ll also share some of the details about what mass production of fast-food burgers looks like, because we believe that once consumers understand why they can get a ‘beef’ burger for $4.00 that has less nutritional value than a burger they can grill at home, we will all be empowered to make healthier choices.

How Are Fast-Food Burgers Manufactured?

The worst scandal to hit the fast food industry, was the ‘pink slime’ footage captured, that brought America’s attention to how meat was maybe not meat after all, in their favorite drive-through burger.  McDonalds.  It was actually called LFTB, or Lean Finely Textured Beef, which McDonald’s supply manufacturers combined with small amounts of ammonia, to remove bacteria.  After the news was released (along with video footage from a supplier plant) McDonald’s stated that they would not be using ‘pink slime’ on their fast-food menu.

The 2012 expose from ABC news caused a significant reduction in the demand, and production of ‘pink slime’ as a fast-food manufacturing resource. ABC news in 2017 launched a similar news series designed to discover if the food industry had actually moved away from the LFTB manufacturing method.  Beef Products Inc. was a top American manufacturer of the LFTB, who has been in court as a plaintiff against ABC for reporting the undercover story.  The business has lost $1.9 billion dollars annually, and 3 of the 4 manufacturing plants were closed during to reduced sales, after consumers watched the initial segment.

It is interesting that in European countries, there are strict laws against mechanically separated meat. For instance, beef, sheep and goat meat is not legally permitted to be processed in that way and sold to consumers, or food manufacturers.  Only poultry and pork.   And in Europe, any mechanically separated meat must be clearly labeled for consumers, frozen immediately, and in the food service industry, it can only be used in a vary narrow list of food preparations.

What is the big deal about mechanically separated meat, and what kind of foods can you find it in?  Anytime you are eating a meat that has been shaped, or formed (such as a burger patty, chicken nugget, some brands of meat balls etc.) chances are that LFTB meat has been used to produce the food item.

Here is the process used in meat manufacturing to produce lean finely textured meat, which is a staple on virtually every fast-food menu:

1. Beef, pork, turkey and chicken are processed to remove the quality cuts.  These include the fresh meat selections you see in the grocery store.  A portion of these whole portions are also sold to the restaurant industry, by wholesale food distributors.

2. The carcass that is left after all the quality portions of meat have been removed, contain bone, skin, a lot of fat and some tissue.  Specialty machines designed for the carcass type, strip the remaining soft tissues away from the bone and deposit it in a holding container.

3. The meat fragments are pushed through a sieve, or holes that both condense the meat into smaller pieces, while helping to eliminate bone fragments and other materials.  This becomes a paste, or what is referred to as ‘meat slurry’ in the manufacturing process.

4. The ‘slurry’ is then treated with a variety of chemicals to preserve the meat (so it does not spoil), but also to decontaminate the meat from harmful bacteria. Ammonium hydroxide is then applied to the slurry and mixed in thoroughly, to remove bacteria.  This is why LFTB presents significant health concerns; cleaning agents such as antibacterial soaps, floor cleaning detergents and solvents contain up to 15% ammonium hydroxide.  And it is toxic, but not understood how harmful it is to health when consumed with proteins.

5. Because the ‘meat’ is essentially flavorless after being chemically bleached for bacteria, preservatives are added again, as well as seasonings to mimic the original flavor of beef, pork or turkey meat.  It tastes like the real thing, but it’s not.

The Bad and Ugly Facts About Fast-Food Burgers and Your Health

In the past twenty years, fast-food franchises have been forced by consumer and dietary health advocates through government regulation, to share the nutritional content of each food product they sell.  But there are few laws that give consumers to right to ask about how that food product is manufactured.  Businesses have the right to protect their ‘trade secrets’ and recipes from competition, at the same time, they deny consumers the right to understand manufacturing processes that can be a detriment to their health.

Mechanically separated meats are not processed in the body the same way that authentic meat and protein sources are. They are a less digestible protein, which is way many people share that they have an ‘upset stomach’ after eating poultry or beef fast-food items.  Not to mention that they are heavily laden with other additives, fillers, binders (to keep the meat together) that are not always natural, but chemical additives. 

At Free Graze, our business has been creating delicious burgers for more than fifty years.  When we innovated this new brand, we wanted to create the kind of burger that people would feel good about eating.  We source our beef exclusively from certified grass-fed agricultural been producers, to ensure that the highest quality of flavor and nutrition goes into every bite you take.  

We also source only authentic and natural ingredients like real cheddar, uncured bacon, jalapenos and fresh onions to create what we believe, is one of the healthiest premium frozen burgers in your grocery store.  Eating healthier starts by cooking more at home and choosing premium meat and protein sources for your family (without preservatives, food coloring, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs).  Make a healthy choice with Free Graze.