Feb 28 2007

Big Mac vs. Duchy Original

Second Update: astute commenters have pointed out that the error is largely mine, as I didn’t notice the “per 100 grams” notation on the graphic. Mea culpa.

Prince Charles was in the news yesterday after saying that banning Big Macs is the key to encouraging healthy eating. He said this while touring the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre in Abu Dhabi, where he was launching their Health Awareness Campaign.

The English newspaper The Evening Standard has a follow-up story today on their Web site spin-off, This is London, in which they claim the Cornish Pasty from the Prince’s own brand of snack, Duchy Originals, has more calories, fat, sugar, and salt than a Big Mac.

Unfotunately for The Evening Standard – and anyone foolish enough to believe them – the report (and the accompanying graphic) is totally false. (Actually, not totally; the Cornish Pasty has slightly more salt.)

All it takes is a trip over to the nutritional information page of McDonald’s Web site to see that the Big Mac numbers reported by This is London are way, way off.

Below is the graphic from This is London, modified by me to show the actual numbers from McDonalds:

corrected by blork

I could understand a small margin of error, but this is inexcusable!

Update: I should have mentioned that I cannot find reliable nutritional information on Duchy Originals. Some Web sites imply they too have higher calorie and fat counts than are indicated here, but I can’t find any concrete numbers.

25 comments so far

25 Comments on “Big Mac vs. Duchy Original”

  1. Frankon 28 Feb 2007 at 3:27 pm

    All of their Big Mac numbers are about 40% of the real ones (except for the salt). Maybe they figured each sandwich is 2.5 servings. Or maybe there was some conversion factor that was off. Like kiloNewtons to gallons.

  2. lattégirlon 28 Feb 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Oh, thanks a lot. Now I have an irrational urge for a Big Mac.

  3. KBon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Yeah, actually, it says per 100g. A Big Mac is 214 grams according to the McDonalds site so the numbers reported, while still off, are quite close. Can’t comment on the Duchy Originals numbers but it looks like the Big Mac ones aren’t so misleading.

  4. Sueon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:05 pm

    The figures quoted in the piece are per 100gms not per burger. If you go to the McDonalds.co.uk site you can find the same figures used by ‘This is London’. I wonder if that is the problem with the comparison, maybe the figures for the pasty are for a unit rather than per 100grams. Either way I know which lunch I would prefer…I love me a cornish pasty

  5. DAVEon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:24 pm

    That’s hard journalism for ya :)

  6. blorkon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:30 pm

    That’s sloppy blogging for you too! I can’t believe I missed the “per 100 grams” part!

  7. Sueon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Another point that should be considered aside from calorie counts when comparing the the relative health merits of these two foods is the ingredient list. Maybe the Big Mac is slightly less calorific but at the same time it probably contains far less nutrients (vitamins and minerals) than the “real food” pasty. And at the risk of hogging your comments real estate I present the ingredient list of the two:

    Pasty Ingredients:
    Wheatflour, Beef, Potato, Swede, Onion, Water, Margarine, Caster Sugar, Egg, Unsalted Butter, Ground Black Pepper, Sea Salt.

    Big Mac Ingredients:
    Bun:
    Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, high fructose corn syrup, yeast, soybean oil, canola oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of each of the following: sesame seed, salt, wheat gluten, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, monocalcium phosphate, ammonium chloride, calcium carbonate, baking soda, soy flour, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: distilled monoglycerides, DATEM, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, enzymes, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, guar gum, mono-and diglycerides, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate & sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin.
    Big Mac® Sauce:
    Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor).
    Beef Patty:
    beef; Prepared with grill seasoning (salt, black pepper).
    Pickle Slices:
    Cucumbers, water, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, alum, potassium sorbate (preservative), natural flavors (plant source), polysorbate 80, extractives of turmeric (color).
    Pasteurized Process American Cheese:
    American cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), water, milkfat, sodium citrate, sodium phosphate, salt, sorbic acid (preservative), acetic acid, artificial color, soy lecithin and/or corn starch (added for slice separation).

    Again, I know which I would prefer!

  8. blorkon 28 Feb 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Sue, thanks for that. I think that’s what Prince Charles was getting at. And I agree — there’s more to it than just calorie and fat counts. It’s about “food” versus “factory product.”

  9. Gregon 28 Feb 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I get similarly annoyed with advertising for low calorie versions of junk food. Generally all they do is sell you less of the same junk for the same price and call it something new. I’ve had a draft blog post about it waiting to be finished for (embarrassingly) a few months now… Any day now I’ll finish writing it, I swear.

  10. blorkon 28 Feb 2007 at 11:33 pm

    Anatomy of a Blog Error

    I’m really embarrassed about this mistake. I don’t hesitate to criticize other people for sloppy research and glaring errors, and there I am screwing up the same way. I’ve been thinking about it, and wondering why I let myself make such a stupid mistake.

    Deconstructing, here’s what happened:

    - I read the article just before lunch. I emailed some notes to my home address with the intention of taking a closer look in the evening and making a post about it then.

    - I went for lunch, and found myself obsessing about the issue while I ate my sandwich. I was also reading a Salon.com article about right-wing nutbars who use comment trolling to try to discredit liberal blogs. (No direct connection, but it helped darken the cloud over my head.)

    - I got back to my desk boiling over with anti-bullshit anger. I couldn’t hold back — I had to make the post right away. But I’m really busy at work, so I rushed through it, convinced that I knew what I was doing. I spent all my “research” energy on getting the Big Mac numbers right, and neglected to take a close look at the graphic.

    So there you go. I’m not excusing myself, I’m just trying to understand how I could be so lame. It’s weird, because usually stepping away from a post helps to clarify it. In this case it just stirred up my fever.

    Mea culpa. I promise to try to do better in future.

  11. Cameronon 01 Mar 2007 at 7:38 am

    Umm.. another thought, Big Macs are you know, a meal.

    Cornish Pastry is what, a snack cake?

    One pretends to be food, the other is a treat.

    It’s like saying “well this trifle with triple cream, double cream and extra clotted cream on the side has more bad stuff in it than this apple.”

  12. tbiton 01 Mar 2007 at 10:15 am

    i am curious and maybe someone else can answer for me. i worked for Agriculture Canada years ago and saw a corporate video about McDonalds making burgers and how they represent a great purchaser of grain products, which they in turn add to the meat. When they say that their beef is 100% Grade A Beef, they mean the meat content is in fact beef, not dog or pig or horse. But no where do you ever see that a beef patty can be up to 60% bran/barley/corn/etc. the grain choice changes depending on the region and part of the world. Anyone know why they don’t have to mention this in nutritional info?

  13. blorkon 01 Mar 2007 at 10:34 am

    TBIT, are you sure about that? It seems to me they’d have to mention it in the nutritional info (even if they don’t have to in their advertising). Are you sure the grain goes into the meat, and not into the cows that become the meat? Or maybe it was referring to the buns?

  14. stony_curtison 01 Mar 2007 at 12:22 pm

    As far as tbit’s point, McDonald’s ‘cuts’ fattier beef with leaner ‘retired-dairy-cow’ beef to achieve a leaner product, but no grain filler as far as I know [could not find interweb reference at snopes, etc.]

    And completely gratuitously, is that not an interesting example of the cross-Atlantic cultural differences that “pasty” here is a pejorative adjective, while in the UK, it is a delicious, diminuitive tasty little seasoned savoury treat?

    OK, I found the McDo’s beef reference: scroll down to “HOLD ON THERE”…

  15. stony_curtison 01 Mar 2007 at 12:24 pm

    [sheepish]I don’t think my link works, so here goes:
    http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_097b.html
    [/sheepish]

  16. blorkon 01 Mar 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Cool. Thanks for doing that research!

  17. Christopher DeWolfon 01 Mar 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Cameron, pasties aren’t a sweet, they’re savoury pastry pockets filled with ground beef, potatoes, onions and that sort of thing. They’re actually very similar to empanadas.

  18. Lisaon 02 Mar 2007 at 9:10 am

    I am willing to go out and purchase a pasty to get you the accurate nutritional information, Ed. You know, just for scientific purposes. ;)

    And yes, as Christopher said, pasties are not a sweet pastry (I can see the confusion, though.) It’s like a meat pie you can eat on the go, and they are darn tasty.

  19. Lisaon 02 Mar 2007 at 9:13 am

    P.S. Just saw this comment by my fabulous friend Stony Curtis:
    “And completely gratuitously, is that not an interesting example of the cross-Atlantic cultural differences that “pasty” here is a pejorative adjective, while in the UK, it is a delicious, diminuitive tasty little seasoned savoury treat?”

    Did you mean “pasty” as in white like glue? ‘Cos the edible variety here is pronounced “pah-stee” not “pay-stee”. :)

  20. Harryon 02 Mar 2007 at 10:30 am

    Ohhhhh…. Pastys, not Pasties.I thought you guys were all on about those tacky nipple covers. Mmmmm… savoury.

  21. Frankon 02 Mar 2007 at 11:11 am

    Interestingly, my first (and only) encounter with pasties (the snack) was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I now find it odd that it is the only location on North America that I had heard of it referred to in that manner since I never thought of the U.P. as being an enclave of British nationals.

  22. stony_curtison 02 Mar 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Lisa, no, you are yanking my chain~! :-)

    Seriously, is it pronoucned “paw-stee”? Because I would just laugh my *ss off if I heard someone say it that way… But they’re the Brits and they invented them, and so they must be right. Off-topic: I am craving Scotch eggs, those hard-boiled eggs surrounded with sausage meat and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Gawww… [drool]

  23. Christopher DeWolfon 03 Mar 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Not paw-stee… pah-stee. That’s pah as in “pat on the back.”

  24. Alon 20 Mar 2007 at 9:29 pm

    My wife’s mother grew up in Florence, WI, just across the border from Iron Mountain on the “Youper” peninsula of Michigan. Her mother is Swedish, both sides- didn’t learn to speak English until she was ateenager, and is now a retired 85 year old Wisconsin teacher.

    Up there the Pasty, pronounced like Christopher DeWolf shows, is a Swedish delight.

  25. bigmacfanon 24 Jan 2008 at 9:19 am

    pastry is bullsh*t… big mac owns… a lot of fatty, growse, juicy meat