You may remember back in 2001 and 2002 a little problem McDonald’s ran into with their Hindu American customers, which led to major issues for the chain in India. While I can see from reading these articles that the dust-up had a lot more to do with miss communication, there is still a lesson to be learned here. The miss communication or miss interpretation, some may say, occurred when McDonald’s switched from using beef fat to vegetable oil for frying food. Hindu’s and Vegetarian’s believed that they could now safely consume McDonald’s french fries. However, unknown to them at the time, McDonald’s french fries are seasoned with beef tallow in America. Of course, this is not the practice in the Indian restaurants, but the knee jerk reaction could not be stopped; however, this is not the lesson, just the background.
Flash forward to Good Friday 2014. I am stuck working in a Wal-Mart that has a McDonald’s inside and I did not feel like going out for lunch then coming back to finish my work day. So, I decided to eat there. I am by no means a fanatical observer of meatless Friday’s as the Catholic consumer may be, but I usually try to be good on this one day. In addition, there are two other things to consider. One, I always found it somewhat hypocritical that fish is not considered meat for the purpose of meatless Fridays. Two, I am not a big fan of McDonald’s fish.
That being said, I decided I would bite the bullet and get a fish sandwich and fries for lunch. Of course, that is before my freaky recall pulled up the memory of the incident in India. At that time, I thought it was beef tallow in the oil not the fries but the result is the same either way in this situation. The wheels of my mind continued to turn. If I recalled correctly, McDonald’s changed their set up in India but remained true to their recipes in America, which is borne out in the articles above. Now comes the lesson.
As I have said, I am not a devout follower of meatless Friday for reason I won’t get into here, but I try. On this particular day I was rather beat and there was no way I was heading outside and coming back and now the fish sandwich and fries were in question. For me, I decided to heck with it, I was going to get what I wanted. A Big Mac and fries later, I went about my work day. However, the idea stuck in my head.
What of all the devout Christians who think they are adhering to their meatless Friday’s by getting a fish sandwich and fries at McDonald’s? Either way you have it, beef tallow in the oil or fries, it gets all over anything fried in the same oil. In McDonald’s, that means any fried item. Do these devout Christians realize this? Did they see the same articles and news flashes that I did but fail to make the connection to their own religious beliefs? The lesson for me was how accustomed we have become to eating food without thinking about what we are really eating. Actually, this goes for so much of modern American culture that it isn’t funny. For example, how much do we know about the prepackaged foods we eat for convenience? What does our government do outside of our country in order to help companies get favorable considerations in foreign countries (you know, protecting our interests)? Do our companies follow the same ethical guidelines in other countries that we demand of them in America?
The whole point of this post is to make you start to think about all the things you take for granted as being right, just, and moral. Are they really? Have you given up your soul, belief, or dignity in the name of convenience? Bones? (read “The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars” by Stephen Brust for the meaning of this)