Jan Fields, Lindsay Ferrier, and Cindy Goody
At the BlogHer conference in New York, I was offered a chance to sit down with McDonalds CEO Jan Fields for a one-on-one interview. Nothing was off the table. Anything could be discussed.
And Jan Fields didn't hold back. Along with McDonalds nutritionist Cindy Goody, she discussed topics ranging from pink slime to the debate over whether McDonalds is contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Check out all she had to say after the jump -- then let us know in the comments what you think!
I knew the question for McDonalds on most moms' minds has got to be about the pink slime rumors. Who among us hasn't seen the infamous pink slime photo on Facebook?
As it turned out, I didn't even need to broach the subject -- Jan Fields brought it up on her own, after I asked her which rumors she'd most like to dispel.
For starters, that pink slime photo we've all seen online is a fake. “It is actually a meat production plant in China that we don’t even use,” Jan said. She also said that 'pink slime' has never been used in McDonalds' chicken nuggets.
“Our chicken nugget is a piece of chicken," she told me. "It’s a whole muscle chicken. I’ve been to the plant. I’ve gone all the way from 'the chicken' to 'eating the nugget' process and there’s nothing added to it. There’s the breading, of course. The chicken is formed, cut, and then it goes through the breading process and then a freezing process. There is nothing ever added.”
Pink slime (which is technically called 'boneless lean beef trimmings') has been used in burgers by fast food restaurants and in hot dogs, but early this year, many major chains including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Kroger, and Burger King, announced they would no longer carry products that use BLBT. You can read more about the facts vs. fiction regarding pink slime on Snopes.com.
Another thorn in Jan Fields' side is the accusation that McDonalds is responsible for the obesity epidemic. “I think that notion that we’re the cause of it is misguided because you choose what you’re going to eat," she said, adding that the average person eats at McDonalds only once or twice a month. Meanwhile, nutritionist Cindy Goody pointed out that 80 percent of the items on McDonalds' menu are under 400 calories -- a fact McDonalds is promoting right now with its 'Favorites Under 400 Calories' Olympics promotion.
Something that has impressed me lately about McDonalds is its redesign of the Happy Meal, which now has 20 percent fewer calories. Fries have been reportioned to a 100-calorie serving, apples are automatically included with the meal, and the caramel dipping sauce is gone. "Portion control is a big issue," Jan explained when we talked about the new Happy Meal. "And so by changing that portion to what was reasonable for a child, whether a 2-year-old or a 5-year-old, it satisfied portion control and fit within the recommended daily allowance for a meal.” As a mom, I'm pleased with the change, although it unfortunately means there are far less fries for me to steal when my kids aren't looking! McDonalds also is looking into making its snack wraps a Happy Meal option, which I think is a fabulous idea. Do it, McD's. DO IT!
Other interesting facts I learned during my time spent with Jan Fields:
-McDonalds has reduced the sodium in its chicken nuggets by 20 percent since 2003, without affecting the taste. Ten percent of that sodium reduction happened just during the last year.
-If you have a problematic (or fantastic) McDonalds near you, don't hesitate to call the corporate customer service number (1-800-244-6227) and let them know. By all accounts, McDonalds takes its customer service calls very seriously, and your call will be reviewed, followed up on, and will likely affect the corporate scoring of your local restaurant.
-McDonalds, as you've probably noticed, is constantly searching for ways to make its menu items more nutritious. Expect more whole grains and dairy and fruit products to come, as well as continued efforts to lower the sodium content of its foods. Along those lines, McDonalds is also looking at grilled chicken nuggets. Yay.
-Are you a vegetarian who's wondering why McDonalds doesn't include a veggie burger? McDonalds actually test marketed a veggie burger in Southern California. It didn't sell.
I've actually known Jan Fields for a few years, so I was excited to get the opportunity to interview her for The Stir. She is a mother and grandmother and began working for the company as a crew member 34 years ago. I've always been impressed by Jan's openness and candor. During the BlogHer conference, McDonalds sponsored a breakfast for about 100 mom bloggers and Jan answered every question and comment that came from the audience, whether it was about gluten-free food options, humane treatment of cattle, or the design of the McDonalds yogurt cup. "We're in a position where everybody looks at everything we do," she told the moms. "So we have to be good."
Jan Fields also talks with McDonalds customers every day and personally answers at least 8-10 customer complaints each week. Whether you like McDonalds or not, you can't help but be impressed by a CEO who's unafraid to take on critics and answer their questions and complaints as openly and honestly as she can.
That's my two cents. What's yours?