My cooking tends to be a joke in our family. Even the priest couldn’t resist adding a little tidbit about how I manage to burn grilled cheese into the sermon at our wedding. It is what it is. I’m not the best cook in the family and am perfectly happy letting Scott do most of the cooking.
That doesn’t mean I don’t participate in the decision making. Once the kids were old enough to eat non-baby food, we started including them in our dinners. Many families would serve their kids hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese when salmon and vegetables were on the menu. Not us. They ate what we did, and now enjoy sushi and even ask for more vegetables. Our youngest will even make herself a salad whenever it’s a “free choice” meal. We arm them with the tools to make their own decisions.
As I have mentioned before, I am a member of the McDonald’s Family Arches community where we learn about new McDonald’s promotions and products. In addition, it is a platform for community members to voice concerns and share thoughts on new packaging, potential promotion ideas and more. As part of a survey last fall, community members were given the opportunity to ask McDonald’s some questions about their food. Whenever I see rumors circulate the internet or email about anything from food to urban legends, I look them up on Snopes. It’s unfortunate that people believe something just because they read it on the internet without truly researching it. As I filled out the survey, there wasn’t anything that weighed heavy on my mind. Question after question was more detailed. “..about our beef?” No. “…about our chicken?” No. “…about our eggs.” No. Wait. Yes. I did have a question. A while back I was reading another blogger’s tips on ordering at McDonald’s. It contained a handful of things like asking for a sweet tea cup because the ice doesn’t melt as fast. One of the tips said that McDonald’s offers real eggs at breakfast but you have to ask for them otherwise you get an egg product. I had never given much thought to it, but here I was with a chance to find out if what I read on the internet WAS really true. So I asked.
“I read somewhere that egg products are used as a default but if a customer wants a real egg on their sandwich they need to request it specifically. Is that true?”
I genuinely was curious, but usually when we fill out the surveys through the community, we don’t receive individual feedback. I figured the questions we presented would be used as part of a new marketing campaign. I had no idea what was to come.
Representatives for McDonald’s contacted me and asked if I would be interested in having my question answered in person as part of their “Our Food. Your Questions” web series. They invited me to Michigan in December to see the Herbruck’s chicken farm, the Cargill facility where the eggs are processed as well as a local McDonald’s to see for myself what goes into my favorite breakfast sandwiches. They would pay for my transportation, lodging and meals so I wouldn’t be out anything, however they made it very clear there would be NO other compensation offered. I wasn’t being hired for this project. It wasn’t about blogging. I would be there as any other consumer with a question.
Despite a hectic holiday season with activities for the kids along with work, I took them up on the offer to see the behind the scenes at the restaurant and be filmed with Grant Imahara (you might know him from Mythbusters)! I had to pass on visiting the farm and egg processing facility because we own a parakeet. For me to visit those facilities would have required that I be quarantined from my home for several days prior to the visit. An unpaid quarantine during a really busy time of year just wasn’t in the cards for me. I love seeing what happens behind-the-scenes, but could not be away from work for that many days. They assured me that I would have the opportunity to speak with someone to get my questions answered.
I flew in the day before the filming was to begin. Call time to leave the hotel the next morning was 5:10 am. I dressed in an outfit meeting their requirements then brought along a few additional options so they could coordinate my wardrobe with Grant’s. They had a stylist touch up my hair and makeup while someone else fitted me with a microphone. I was instructed NOT to speak to Grant ahead of time because they wanted the first time I met him to be in front of the camera.
When the time came to step in front of the camera, they asked me so many questions. They inquired about my kids, blogging, being part of the Family Arches community, what inspired my question about the eggs and more. I was so incredibly nervous! Despite what people may think, they never coached me on anything to say. To put it completely into perspective, they asked me where I was and I babbled away “Somewhere in Michigan near Lansing. West of Detroit. East of Grand Rapids. I’m not sure exactly where because they chauffeured me here.” As I struggled and prayed for another question, it dawned on me the answer they were waiting for. “Oh, I’m at McDonald’s. Duh!” Thank goodness they cut that out during final editing. I had the same issue when they asked me what I am. “Social Media Mom. Consumer. Curious customer, Brand Advocate, Family Arches Community Member, Blogger.” when I think they just wanted me to say “Mom.” Even when the answer was painfully obvious to anyone who WASN’T nervous, I was making it more difficult than it needed to be.
After they were done asking me questions, Grant came on camera and started talking to me. I’m sure a fumbled a bit at first because (as I mentioned) I had not been introduced to him or chatted ahead of time. He was easy-going and carrying on a conversation with him was effortless. From there, we went into the McDonald’s kitchen to see whether or not they use real eggs. After all, that’s the main thing I wanted to see for myself.
As soon as we stepped up to the grill, I saw a large package of real eggs sitting right by the station. Real eggs! I couldn’t resist just leaning over and picking one up. Drew Marsh, the manager, proceeded to tell us about the five types of eggs that are used and which menu items they are used in. The Egg McMuffins come with a “round egg” so that was my main focus however the Egg White Delights come from a box that was sitting right there. I was skeptical, and the camera wasn’t on so I took the liberty of grabbing the box to see the ingredient list for myself.
Ingredients: Egg whites. That was it. Interesting.
Grant and I spent several hours seeing the team in action, learning about eggs, cracking some (eggs and jokes) and ultimately making breakfast sandwiches ourselves. Grant is an engineer and tech-guy so during breaks we talked about robotics and strategy games. (He said he plays the Ticket to Ride app on his phone! I wish I could remember the other games he mentioned!) I also asked what he’ll be doing now that he’s done with Mythbusters. He said some ideas were in the works but nothing had been finalized at that time. I could have spent all day chatting with him. Alas, the schedule was tight and they had other things to do.
The production team along with Grant headed off to Cargill facility while I stayed behind. As I mentioned before, there are five different types of eggs used. Round eggs, liquid egg whites, liquid eggs, folded eggs and burrito mix. The folded eggs and burrito mix are made at the supplier and the liquid eggs come in a box. During the shooting, I happened to look at that packaging and saw that it contained other ingredients. I was introduced to management and someone from the supplier chain. They wanted to see if I had questions that were not answered during the filming process. They had no secrets and answered everything that I asked. With respect to the other ingredients in the liquid eggs, it was explained that the eggs that make it to the carton (by the grill) meet very specific requirements for size and quality. Anything besides that is used elsewhere. Too large or too small and they are cracked to be used for the other egg products. If they don’t meet quality standards, they are discarded. The other ingredients noted on the carton were things such as preservatives.
If you haven’t already had a chance to watch the videos, you may have a tough time finding them now. There are two different although some parts are repeated for continuity of the story. The one at the top of this post is specific to my experience while the second focuses on Grant getting my questions answered at the Cargill facility where the eggs are processed.
It was a cool behind-the-scenes eggs-perience. Not just about the eggs but about McDonald’s and their processes in general. I arrived with a curiosity and skepticism and left with a new-found respect for the process and for McDonald’s. All because I asked a simple question.
Do you ever have questions for McDonald’s?