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The Physicians Committee

Golden Arches Facing Golden Opportunity
May 24, 2013

McDonald’s recently made the decision to trim down its menu from a hefty 145 items. So far, they’ve jumped from the fat into the fire by nixing the Fruit and Walnut Salad and adding three Quarter Pounders, loaded with cheese and bacon.

If the selections continue to feature high-cholesterol processed meat items, this “trimmed” menu won’t be trimming any waistlines. A revamped menu might fool some customers into believing that options have improved, but not one intrepid 9-year-old girl who approached McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson at a shareholder meeting and asked why McDonald’s targets young consumers with junk food marketing. Mr. Thompson responded with the surprising statement that McDonald’s doesn’t sell junk food.

The following letter from Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D, director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee, offers advice on how Mr. Thompson can change his company’s junk-food image by changing the junk food on its menu:

May 24, 2013

Don Thompson
President and Chief Executive Officer
McDonald's Corporation
2111 McDonald's Dr.
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Dear Mr. Thompson:

I am pleased to learn that McDonald’s is trimming its menu. This is the perfect opportunity to cut the fat and cholesterol in many of your menu items by bumping the beef patties and bringing on the vegan and vegetarian options.

With approximately 39 percent of Americans eating less meat, more and more restaurants are offering a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. The two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese are realizing that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can be prevented through a plant-based diet. Meat intake has been linked to an increased risk of death, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. This increase in public awareness coincides with the recent decrease in McDonald’s profits.

When the 9-year-old girl at your shareholder meeting asked you about nutrition, you insisted that McDonald’s doesn’t sell junk food. However, McDonald’s products are notoriously low in nutrients and high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. This doesn’t have to be the case. Plant-based options are naturally low in fat and cholesterol and could decidedly counter the junk-food image.

One of your competitors, Chipotle, is having great success courting the vegetarian, vegan, and “flexitarian” market, as well as health-conscious Millenials. In February, they launched the vegan Sofrita in a test market in San Francisco. The Sofrita has performed so well that it’s being expanded to the entire state of California less than three months later. Chipotle’s profits have jumped, with shares increasing 23 percent just this year.

Even Burger King has a veggie burger. Subway heavily promotes the health of their Veggie Delite sandwich and went so far as to test meatless vegan sandwiches last year. Taco Bell’s black bean burritos are a menu staple, heavily coveted by vegans and flexitarians alike.

McDonald’s meat-heavy focus is not only contributing to the health concerns of its customers, but is missing out on an entire consumer base. Your competitors have all shown that veg-friendly options are both possible and successful. Don’t miss the boat!


Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.
Director of Nutrition Education


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