I’ll just start by saying that I realize this is an old story. In fact, it’s more than a decade old. (Another one that we’ll get to shortly is twice as ancient.) But I hadn’t heard about it, so I’m guessing some of you might not have either. What we’re dealing with is a McDonald’s hamburger and an order of fries. (Wait… it gets better.) This particular meal was purchased in Iceland on the day that the last McDonald’s restaurant there closed in 2009. The person who bought it didn’t eat it. He kept it as a memento.
That was ten years ago. The thing is, the burger and fries are on display with a live webcam covering them 24/7. And both look almost entirely unchanged after ten years of being left out in the open. (WaPo)
Purchased hours before the corporation pulled out of the country in 2009, in the wake of Iceland’s devastating financial crisis, the last surviving McDonald’s burger has become much more than a burger. To some, it stands for the greed and excessive capitalism that “created an economic collapse that was so bad that even McDonald’s had to close down,” said Hjörtur Smárason, 43, who purchased the fateful burger in 2009. To others, the eerily fresh look of the 10-year-old meal has served as a warning against the excessive consumption of fast food.
McDonald’s has attempted to debunk the myth that its burgers do not decompose, arguing there is a scientific explanation for Iceland’s never-rotting burger.
I don’t know how much of an enduring symbol we need instructing us about “greed and excessive capitalism” but this is still an interesting mystery. You can see pictures at the link or check in on the webcam I mentioned above. It certainly does seem odd that this burger could remain in what appears to be a condition of stasis for a decade and not decompose.
I did a little digging and it turns out McDonald’s has been fighting this story (and the implication that their preservatives are monstrously unnatural) from the beginning. There was plenty of coverage on the five year anniversary of the not-so-happy meal back in 2014. At that time, McDonald’s was saying that the burger lasted a long time because it was in a low humidity climate.
Well… maybe. But simply being in Iceland doesn’t explain it. You see, there was another guy with a burger from the Golden Arches that lasted even longer. But this guy lived in Utah and his burger had lasted 14 years as of 2013.
He bought the hamburger from a McDonald’s outlet way back in 1999, originally planning to keep it for a month to show friends the worrying power of preservatives.
But he forgot about it, finding it two years later in an old coat pocket. He then decided to continue the experiment, but admits even he was amazed that, 14 years on, the hamburger remains unchanged.
After fourteen years of just laying around, the picture of the Utah burger doesn’t seem any different from one you might purchase today except the slice of pickle on it “disintegrated” over the years. So a pickle will disintegrate but the burger just hangs around forever?
I happen to like McDonald’s food and I seriously doubt I’ll stop eating it at my age. But I don’t indulge in it every day. (Or even every week.) Surely someone else has done some testing on these products to find out why the burgers are seemingly immortal. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any evidence of such experiments. But it’s certainly food for thought. (I’ll be here all week. Try the veal, but not the hamburger.)