The Hipster-Healthy Foods That are Killing the Planet

The food we consume is often dictated by trends (anyone with any sort of recollection of the 1970’s, will likely have fond memories of prawn salad’s followed by a nice portion of trifle). But these days, consumerism has become a global problem and rarely are the foods we eat en masse homegrown, so it stands to reason that the impact of increased demand for certain foods is felt across the world. 

As food trends go, healthy food is currently having a pretty good run. Nutritious foods such as avocados, quinoa and almond milk have seen huge increases in production over the last few years, but as the demand for these newly popular foods soars, what impact are they really having on the environment?

Avocados

Avocados are nutrient-rich and bursting with vitamins and research also suggests that the natural fats in avocados can help protect against heart disease and lower blood pressure. These health benefits and the advent of social media has meant that the avocado has become one of the biggest players in the superfood market the world over. The USA imported almost 2 million tonnes of avocado in 2017… that’s six times as many as in 2001! As a planet, we now produce and consume twice as many avocados as we did back then, with 40% of the worlds avocados coming from Mexico.

Avocados are known to be water hungry, using 370 litres of water just to produce 500g of avocado… that’s nearly 8 times the amount of water required to grow the same amount of tomatoes! This is having detrimental effects on the drought-stricken areas such as Mexico and California where the majority are grown. Water isn’t the only problem for those in Mexico either, much of the farm land is now controlled by drug cartels due to the increased demand, forcing farmers to hand over a percentage of their earnings and murdering those that refuse.

Quinoa

Known as Peruvian Gold, quinoa has become a firm favourite on many restaurant menu’s in recent years. Gluten-free and high in fibre, it certainly has its place in a healthy balanced diet. Together, Peru and Bolivia produce approximately 95% of the world’s quinoa and traditionally, it would be a large part of their staple diet. However, due to the increase in demand and the rising prices (tripling since 2006), they’re now forfeiting this healthy, nutritious food in favour of cheaper, processed products.

The increasing prices and demand has also meant that smaller, local farmers who’s families have been growing quinoa for centuries, have been pushed out of the market to make way for mass producing corporate companies. But just how much of an increase are we talking? In 2001, 46 tonnes of quinoa was produced globally, today this figure has risen to 149 tonnes… that’s three times the amount in less than 20 years!

Soya Beans

Soya has played a huge part in vegetarian and vegan foods for a while. Due to being high in protein and a good source of fibre, it continues to be a favourite and is used to produce meat and dairy alternatives. That said, it’s not actually veggie cuisine that’s causing the problem, it’s our lust for cheaper meat that is fueling the real growth. 347 million tonnes of soya was produced in 2017, 90% of which went into animal feed production.

Unfortunately due to this increase, it means the South American rainforests are suffering huge losses to meet demand;  The USDA estimates that total amount of Brazilian rainforest that will be devoted to cultivating soya beans is likely to reach 30 million hectares by 2020. That’s an area the same size as the Philippines. Let that sink in for just a moment. It’s not just South America that’s suffering either. Globally, 300 million hectares of tropical rainforest has been lost to soy plantations over the last two decades, these vast monocultures are usually heavily sprayed with pesticide, kill biodiversity and contribute heavily to soil erosion.

Other Foods

Though avocados, quinoa and soya bean production are the biggest culprits for destruction and devastation of the planets resources and those that rely on them, there are also a number of other foods that heavily contribute to this including: bananas, coconuts, dark chocolate, peanut butter and almonds.

Bananas – as well as the huge amount of pesticides used to produce bananas, ethylene gas is also used to artificially ripen them as they’re shipped around the world. This and the considerable distances they travel all adds to a rather sizable carbon footprint.

Coconuts – Mainly farmed in Indonesia, the Philippines and India have also begun to clear mangrove forests to pick up on the demand for coconut-based products. This however has had a knock-on effect, causing issues with coastal erosion which in turn can have devastating results during typhoons and tsunamis. 

Dark Chocolate – The cocoa industry has widely been criticised for being one the biggest employers of children, with an estimated 2 million working for less than $1 a day. It’s also been blamed for the huge deforestation in Africa with 80% of Ghana’s rainforest cleared since 1960, add to this the massive carbon footprint; estimate to be the equivalent of driving a car 4.9 miles per 200g bar.

Peanut Butter – Though it’s not the peanuts that are at fault here, the increased popularity means that more palm oil is being used than ever before. A primary ingredient in many peanut butters, cosmetic and other food products, palm oil is derived from the African Oil Palm Tree. This is lucrative business and it’s estimated that 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared every hour to make way for new palm trees, threatening local species such as orangutans who, at this rate, could be extinct within 5 years.

Almonds – It’s a worrying fact that almonds are second only to beef cattle when it comes to water consumption… In fact, almonds require more water to grow than sheep, goats, pigs and chickens! They’re also primarily grown in southern California which is known for it’s dry climate, almond crops have quadrupled over the last 30 years which isn’t great news for the drought hit state.

 

 

The Illustrated Evolution of the Burger

From the go to menu item for the picky eater in a posh restaurant to the fast food must have when you need to grab and go, the burger has solidified itself as one of the world’s favourite foods. While the types of burgers available today are expansive, we’ve decided to take a look at the evolution of the burger to see how this beef sandwich enriched our hearts…

illustrated history of the burger

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History of the Burger

  1. Roman Burger – Late 4th-5th Century AD

It all started with the Roman burger. There is a debate as to the burger origins, some people think it was derived in Hamburg, Germany, and that’s how it got its name, however there’s evidence to suggest the patties as we know and love them were actually formed a bit earlier in history. Between the late fourth and fifth centuries AD, there is a recipe featured in the famous Roman cookbook, Apicus. The recipe is for a dish called ‘Isicia Omentata’ which describes a patty made from minced meat (actually minced pork but that’s what was popular at the time), wine, pepper, pine nuts and a rich fish sauce called Garum. While our faces grimace at the recipe, and we become thankful for living in the 21st century when we have McDonald’s and Five Guys aplenty, we can’t deny that the description and images of the recipe appear to be like the burger we’re now familiar with.

  1. The Medieval Rysshew (Rissole) – Around the 1300s

Minced meat was a luxury reserved for the middle classes during the medieval era but patties made from fruit and herbs fried in oil were a popular dish across Europe. While the recipe isn’t what we know the burger as today, the fried patty idea is very much resemblant of a burger. As farming improved and meat became more commonplace, the basis for burgers was already in place.

  1. The Hamburg Steak – Early 1800s

The Age of Discovery meant that minced beef had become increasingly popular throughout Europe in the previous centuries. Hamburg, in Germany, had become particularly renowned for its cattle, and the high-quality beef sourced from their cows was used to create a delicacy called Hamburg Steak. Hamburg Steak involved meat being minced, seasoned and formed into patties, as we’ve previously heard but it was the meat quality that set this aside as a key turning point. Germany during the Age of Discovery also had the largest shipping ports so would often be frequented by sailors. Hot on their lips was this superior burger patty and when they travelled they spread word about this menu option. It was German immigrants however when they moved to America in the 19th century that started replicating this meal, they set up restaurants in places like New York and Chicago serving the ‘Hamburg Steak’. To cater for the American palate recipes slightly changed and garlic, onions and breadcrumbs were added to the patty. Demand became increasingly high for this meal and this is where the global phenomenon starts, and we see the burger being adapted.

  1. The First True Burger? – 1880

Now that the Hamburg steak was doing the rounds in restaurants all over America, in 1880 a Texan cook Fletcher Davis AKA “Old Dave” placed the meat between two slices of toast. Originally when the Hamburg steak hit American restaurants it was served raw or lightly cooked, as a breakfast option, accompanied by a raw egg.

At the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair however Old Dave is said to have tried something new, he grilled the meat brown and served it between two thick slices of toast with raw onion on top. It proved to be a hit and he opened up a burger stand as a result. He would serve this alongside French fries, which he is also said to have invented.

There are a few claims about how a burger came sandwiched between bread but Fletcher Davis’ version of events is said to be the most likely.

  1. The White Castle Burger, 1921

White Castle was the first fast food restaurant chain to open. The owner Walt A. Anderson had been operating food carts for many years before he decided to open a diner dedicated to burgers. In 1916 Walt was credited with inventing the hamburger bun and when he opened his restaurant serving square patties in a bun, his burger model became revolutionary.  Walt is also credited with creating the kitchen as an assembly food line identifying White Castle as the origin of the fast food industry.

  1. The Cheeseburger, Mid-to-late 1920s

The cheeseburger origins are contested as there are several claims for this. However, most sources suggest 16 year old Lionel Sternberger was the inventor when he decided to experiment and add cheese to a freshly fried burger when cooking at his dad’s Californian food shop, The Rite Spot.

  1. McDonald’s Hamburger, 1940

While the fast food concept had already been cemented by White Castle, and had been soaring in popularity since the 1920s, McDonald’s emphasis on fast and cheap food definitely helped moved the burger along. They introduced the concept of the ‘one minute burger’.

  1. Wimpy Burger, 1954

Fast food had become greatly established in America by the middle of the twentieth century which is when the larger food chains as we known them started taking their franchises around the world. Wimpy is but one example of a success story who by 1970, had over 500 restaurants in the UK alone.

  1. The Whopper, 1957

Burger King was another major fast food chain coming into play in America in the twentieth century. Spurred on by a rival restaurant’s invention, Burger King’s founder James McLamore decided there was a market for a bigger burger. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that this idea faced competition when McDonald’s chose to create the Quarter Pounder.

The Whopper has undergone many changes to its design, the bun switched to a sesame seed bread in 1970, the weight of the burger increased to 120g in 1985 and the bun was replaced again by a Kaiser roll. The larger than normal burger however proved to be a hit with customers.

  1. The Big Mac, 1968

The Big Mac started off under a couple of different names at one of McDonald’s franchises in Pennsylvania in 1967. McDonald’s were trying to compete with the local competition in Pittsburgh trying out new burgers. After the name changed to Big Mac and the sauce was added, it proved popular and became adopted by all US restaurants in 1968.

The design of the Big Mac was another revolutionary event in the evolution of the burger. With a three-part bun design, two patties and the special sauce, it paved the way for more creative inventions.

  1. The Gourmet Burger, 2000-

While the fast food industry was well and truly born and bred around the world, the millennium brought ‘better burger’ chains and gastropubs. This led to the creation of gourmet burgers. There’s a reason hamburgers and fast food burgers are able to be offered at low costs, gourmet burgers invite better cuts of meat, fresh toppings and more flavoursome patties. Traditional burger buns started being replaced by brioche buns and ciabattas.

  1. The Double Down, 2010

As the low-carb craze hit, KFC created the double down burger – a no-bun burger that consisted of two pieces of chicken with the toppings sandwiched between. While this had been designed as a one-off menu item, after achieving success it has now secured a permanent place in restaurants. Similarly, naked burgers are also becoming commonplace with more people opting to have their burger served in lettuce leaves to avoid the increased carbohydrate consumption. 

  1. The In Vitro Burger, 2013

In response for the world’s growing demand for meat, in 2013 scientists from an institute in the Netherlands created the first laboratory made burger. They took cells from a cow and turned them into strips of muscle to create a patty. Whilst there were mixed reactions to the ‘burger’, most comments were positive and agreed the technique had promise. Could this be the future and the direction the modern burger is heading?

Each of these stages had an impact on the burger becoming known as it is today. You could argue either one of the above events invented the hamburger but in reality, they all played their part. From the Roman’s idea of a meat patty, to the global higher quality patty that started retailing due to the Germans, to Old Dave’s concept of placing the patty between slices of bread, all steps were crucial in the evolution of the burger. It’s certainly interesting to see how the recipes and designs have transitioned over the years to provide us with a menu full of alternative dining options that suit everyone’s wants and needs.

Comparing Comfort Foods Around The World

Comfort foods are meant to make you happy – we wanted to see how the happiest nations were affected by the nutritional breakdown of their comfort food.

Everyone has a favourite comfort food, that go to snack or meal to make you feel better when your day has been far from ideal. This idea however that comfort food can improve your mood is an interesting one, especially since a lot of the meal choices are seemingly quite indulgent. With a mission in mind, we set out to take a look at the correlation between comfort food and whether it really does have an impact on your happiness.

We started off by gathering information about the world’s favourite comfort foods. We wanted to see how comfort food differed on a country by country basis and were somewhat surprised at how varied the food types were. Ten comfort foods were traditional main meals, four were rice/cereal-based snacks, three were desserts, four could be classed as side dishes or snacks and four were soups. There were a much broader range than we probably expected.

We then decided to use the Happiness Index to find out which nations were the happiest. To see if there was a correlation between the happiest countries and the healthiest comfort food, for example, we decided to look at the nutritional breakdown of these popular food types. Was the happiest nation’s eating comfort food with more fat, or were carbs the key comforter? Was there a secret ingredient that could be identified as the ‘source of comfort’.

What Did We Find:

Listed below is each country’s go to comfort food dish around the world, complete with the breakdown of their nutritional content.

With low serotonin levels linked to depression and carbs said to trigger serotonin release we did suspect there might be a correlation between comfort foods high in carbohydrate content and the most happiest nations. We actually found comfort foods for nation’s lower down the Happiness Index contained a larger percentage of carbohydrates.

We found that the bottom five countries on the Happiness Index opted for comfort foods with less fat, but the foods also contained less protein.

This didn’t mean however that less carbs, more protein and high fat content was the key to the happiest countries, in fact we found that happiness was more likely to be associated with a balanced diet. Comfort food that had an equal amount of fat and carbs, and around 15% protein were found to be the most comforting. You may be wondering what kind of food fit this bill and made people the happiest… Stew.

Stew is the comfort food that provides the greatest happiness. Australian’s with their meat pie dish, the Swedish with their Pytt i Panna dish and Canadians with Poutine all fit the bill with their comfort food choice. 

If you were wondering why foods too rich in carbohydrate were low down on the happiness scale when less serotonin is linked to depression and anxiety, well for one high levels of serotonin can cause diarrohea and vomiting. Serotonin is also used to help regulate digestion and when something doesn’t agree with us, more of the hormone is produced making our digestive system respond faster. Serotonin is also used in the body when healing wounds, platelets in the blood release the hormone to help arteries contract and reduce blood loss. Too much can lead to bone weakness and osteoporosis. Serotonin can also make you crave sugar and feel down about ourselves. Too little serotonin can lead to depression but too much comes with its own consequences too.

How Healthy Are Comfort Foods?

Comfort foods around the world with the highest amount of fat:

Comfort foods around the world with the highest amount of carbohydrates:

Comfort foods around the world with the highest amount of protein:

Things You Never Knew About Food

Below you’ll find 20 fact cards showing interesting facts you never knew about food and drink. We’ve uncovered some unusual information so we understand if you want to share the news. 

Healthy Food Facts

things you never knew about food graphics - bananas are berries

‘Bananas are berries, but strawberries aren’t!’

Are you ready to have your whole perspective on bananas blown out of the water? Bananas are actually part a berry. Why, you ask? Well, a fruit is defined by botanists as the part of a flowering plant that contains seeds which has developed from the ovary. Berries are fruits that stem from one flower with one ovary, normally having many seeds. Bananas fit this definition and you may be surprised to learn that tomatoes, cucumbers and kiwis are also considered to be berries! Ironically, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, despite their names are not actually berries, they are classed as ‘aggregate fruits’.

The weirdness doesn’t stop there. You may think that bananas grow on trees. That’s common knowledge, right? Wrong. Banana ‘trees’ have no wood tissue in their stem, so they’re technically regarded as a herb. So, if you thought you’d been eating fruit from a tree this whole time, we regret to inform you, it’s a berry from a herb. Now, that’s a fruit fact worth knowing.

things you never knew about food graphics - healthy foods cost more

‘Calorie for calorie, healthy foods cost up to ten times as much as junk foods!’

This nutrition fact about junk food gives us some mixed feelings. The University of Washington did a study of 370 foods in supermarkets in Seattle and found that on average, healthy foods were ten times more expensive per 1,000 calories. This is an American-based study, but the same story applies over here in Europe.

Whenever we go shopping or walk down the high street, junk food is readily available and for cheap. The cost of junk food is less sensitive to inflation. The university’s findings showed that if you wanted to have a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, it would cost you around $3.50 for each day if you consumed solely junk food. Doing the same with healthy food would cost you $36.

This nutrition fact should be as alarming as it is interesting. In the UK, we have seen levies being put on sugary drinks and fattening pastries. As delicious and often convenient as these foods are, Britain is facing an obesity crisis and we believe that healthy foods shouldn’t become a luxury item.

things you never knew about food graphics - mushrooms can't be overcooked

‘Mushrooms can’t be overcooked!’

Mushrooms contain a polymer called chitin in its cell walls. This structure allows for a tender taste whether you cook them for a few minutes or an hour. So, if you ruin your mushrooms next time you’re cooking, we regret to inform you that you’re just a bad cook.

Now, mushrooms are a type of fungi and there are some pretty crazy mushroom facts about fungi that we thought we’d also share with you. Related to the mushroom, a specific honey fungus is the largest living organism on Earth checking in at over 2.4 miles across. Speaking of relation to mushrooms, there is evidence to suggest that humans may have evolved from fungi. Animals separated from fungi around 1.5 billion years ago so humans were very much not a thing back then but still, that’s a head-scratcher of a fact.

things you never knew about food graphics - nutella facts

‘Nutella uses 25% of the world’s hazelnuts’

Nutella was an unexpected by-product of WWII. Italian chocolate-maker, Ferrero, couldn’t get enough cocoa, so he was forced to use hazelnuts instead. The result soon swept the nation and eventually the world. Nutella is now infallible, global brand, and as a result, they use a quarter of the world’s hazelnuts.

So where do Nutella get their hazelnuts from? Hazelnut trees used to mostly grow in Turkey near the coast of the Black Sea. Turkish farmers would pick them by hand and were proud of their crops. However, the Turkish hazelnut farms aren’t impervious to bad weather causing bad harvests which can result in global hazelnut shortages.

Hazelnuts are now grown in places like Australia, Chile and even in university labs in climates where they would not survive. That’s right folks, the global demand for Nutella is so big that universities are trying to grow hazelnuts in labs so we can never run out, and we would like to thank them for being so considerate.


Fun Interesting Facts

things you never knew about food graphics - beer facts

‘Until 2011, Russia classed beer and any alcoholic beverages under 10% ABV as soft drinks!’

That’s right, Russia didn’t consider beer to be alcohol until 2011. Vodka has long been the traditional tipple of Russia but beer began to make some headway. It was advertised as a healthy alternative to spirits, it was cheap and it was barely regulated as before 2011, it was seen as a foodstuff. Legislation was introduced to classify beer as an alcoholic beverage and to limit when and where you can sell it.

Russians are consistently in the top five heaviest drinkers in the world and this legislation was introduced to address Russia’s serious drinking problem. Beer not being recognised as alcohol meant that it was being drunk freely everywhere and anywhere. The spectres of alcoholism and underage drinking became too much of a problem to bear and Russia has clamped down on drinking especially as it appears to have stunted their population growth. It’s estimated that 500,000 Russians die every year from alcohol-related reasons. Make sure you drink responsibly.

 

things you never knew about food graphics - cheese facts

‘Cheese is the most stolen food in the world’

If you can believe it, the most stolen food in the world is cheese. 4% of ALL cheese gets stolen. But what are the motives? Well, it turns out that cheese isn’t just being stolen from people trying to survive but is also being stolen to be resold. That’s right, cheese is so damn tasty that there’s an entire black market of lifted cheeses.

As cheese is so popular we thought we’d share some more surprising cheese facts. There is a bank in Italy that will take parmesan cheese in exchange for cheap loans and then pay you a fee if it matures well. You might think that’s some weird archaic loophole in the bank’s practices but no, they have around 200 million dollars’ worth of parmesan cheese in their vaults.

Charles de Gaulle remarked about his beloved France, “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?”.  The French love their cheese and Charles would be shocked to find out that some experts estimate that France now has around 1000 different varieties of cheese.

And finally, if you’re going to steal some cheese…which you shouldn’t…you might want to make a beeline for the moose cheese. Moose cheese costs around £150 per kg as milking a moose takes around two hours and has to be done in complete silence.

things you never knew about food graphics - flies make chocolate

‘There’s be no chocolate if there were no flies!’

What would happen if we ran out of chocolate? Well, that’s a possibility we don’t even want to think about. But what if we told you that chocolate was made possible by a secret force and without them, this is a scenario we could face?

That’s right, there is a secret force of quiet superheroes working tirelessly to make sure we can get our chocolate and they are…a species of microscopic midge. A bit anticlimactic, but there two kinds of midge that fertilise and pollinate the cacao trees that we so rely on. This allows for the cacao tree to stay alive, grow cacao pods and spread its seeds.

The two types are called Euprojannisi and ForcipomyiaI, but we shall refer to them as ‘The Chocolate League’. These silent heroes have been providing us all with a service, one that we won’t forget. We salute you, Chocolate League.

things you never knew about food graphics - corned beef sandwich in space

‘In 1965 a corned beef sandwich was smuggled into space by astronaut John Young’

A corned beef sandwich has been to space, just let that sink in. Here’s the story detailing how a corned beef sandwich became a stowaway on a US space mission in 1965.

In the 60s, space agencies hadn’t really figured out the whole space food thing. Meals would often consist of ‘nutrition pouches’ that you would have to suck. Naturally, if you’ve been sucking on nutrition pouches, the need for a proper sandwich is going to take hold.

Astronaut John Young took matters into his hands, literally, by taking a corned beef sandwich aboard his spaceship in his pocket. Before we go any further, he wasn’t about to live on the International Space Station for a few months, it was a six-hour mission. He tried to enjoy said sandwich and discovered it was breaking up in the zero-gravity conditions pretty quickly. He stuffed it back into his pocket, for his co-pilot to remark that it was a good thought, if the sandwich would’ve just held together.

We can confirm that NASA have “taken steps to prevent recurrence of corned-beef sandwiches in future flights”. That was a legitimate quote from a NASA spokesman.

things you never knew about food graphics - fruit stickers are edible

‘The stickers on fruit are edible!’

It’s a mistake that is made all too often. Eager to get stuck into your food, you’ve ended up taking a bite out of the sticker. If you’ve worked yourself up into a frenzy because you think you’ve ingested some highly toxic adhesive then don’t worry, this fruit fact is going to quell your worries. Fruit stickers are in fact edible and non-toxic. Let’s be clear though, they’re non-toxic but they’re still probably not good for you, so don’t treat this as a cue to now just eat every fruit sticker you come across.

Fruit stickers may even become a thing of the past as supermarkets may begin to follow Sweden’s lead in marking their fruit and veg with lasers to reduce unnecessary waste. 


Fast Food Facts

things you never knew about food graphics - hot dogs facts

‘In America on 4th July, the amount of hot dogs eaten could stretch from Washington DC to Los Angeles over 5 times’

In America, our transatlantic cousins celebrate their independence. 4th of July celebrations in America are marked with cookouts, fireworks and good old-fashioned gluttony.

The peak ‘hot dog season’ in America lasts from the end of May to the start of September. During this period of reverence to the sausage gods, around 7 billion hot dogs are consumed. That’s 818 hot dogs a second.

We got these stats from America’s National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Not joking, that’s a real thing. You can go and work for them. You can get paid to track the hot dog and sausage eating habits of America. Considering the amount of hot dogs that they eat on the 4th of July can stretch across the country over 5 times, that job is probably much harder than it sounds.

McDonald’s Facts

things you never knew about food graphics - chicken nuggets

‘McDonald’s chicken nuggets come in four shapes and they all have names: the boot, the ball, the bone and the bell.’

You’ve probably never given much thought about the shape of a McDonald’s chicken nugget, we tend to reserve our thought process to ‘how are these so good’ and ‘can i really make it through a box of 20 nuggets’. 

Turns out there’s actually an art to how McDonald’s make their chicken nuggets though. Your nuggets will always be one of four shapes: the bone, the boot, the bell and the ball. The nuggets are cut into these shapes with what are essentially cookie cutters, before being battered and frozen.

McDonald’s, when questioned on this, said: “Three would’ve been too few. Five would’ve been, like, wacky”. We’re not sure what experiments and testing went into this but hey, we’re not going to argue with McDonald’s and their presumable armies of chicken nugget scientists. They’ve said that these shapes are geared towards children, to ensure consistent cooking and for extra ‘dip-ability’. There’s an interesting fast food fact for you to keep an eye out for next time you’re enjoying some McNuggets, if you’re one of those people that actually look at the shape of the nugget before scoffing it.

*There’s no proof that the shape of the nugget has any effect on the taste. 

things you never knew about food graphics - mcds burgers don't rot

‘McDonald’s Burgers don’t really rot. They have low moisture content which basically leaves the burger dehydrated.’

This may not be news to you, pictures of 15-year old McDonald’s burgers have done the rounds on social media before to the usual outcry of disgust. The natural conclusion that people jump to is that McDonald’s lather their burgers with preservatives or that there is too much salt.

There has been some rigorous independent testing of the matter and the conclusion appears to be that the surface area of the burger means it loses moisture very fast. Mould can’t grow without moisture and so it just becomes akin to jerky. It’s actually through this process that beef jerky is made, so no need to be alarmed, it’s science. Still, there’s something not right about seeing a picture of a 15-year old McDonald’s and it looks like one that’s an hour old.


Food Science Facts

things you never knew about food graphics - loud music makes you drink faster

‘Loud music can make you drink more, and faster!

A study undertaken in France has shown that loud music in a bar often lead to people drinking quicker and faster. Conducting the study on forty young males between the age of 18 and 25, they found that when the music was louder, their subjects drank quicker.

From this they have deducted that loud music may have caused higher arousal, resulting in the subjects buying more drinks. Another conclusion was that louder music made it harder to socialise and drinking more is a response.

You might be thinking that is an obvious conclusion. If you crank up the music at a bar, people drink more, that’s not really a shock. The study was conducted to show the effect our surroundings can have on our behaviour however and to highlight that bar proprietors should try to instil an atmosphere that doesn’t promote heavy drinking.

things you never knew about food graphics - peanut butter facts

‘Peanut butter can be used to make diamonds’

You might have millions of pounds worth of diamonds sitting in your cupboards! If you’ve got peanut butter, you can turn them into diamonds. What’s the catch? You need to be able to replicate the conditions of the Earth’s lower mantle…which is 2,200 degrees centigrade.

The core of Earth is around 4,000 miles below us and yet we have only managed to dig 7 miles in to the Earth’s crust. There’s lots of questions about our inner planet that haven’t been answered yet. Scientists have been trying to recreate these conditions to find out more about the workings of the world and needed a carbon-rich material and landed on peanut butter. Don’t get too excited, it took them weeks to create a 2mm diamond.

things you never knew about food graphics - pistachios

‘Large groups of pistachios can spontaneously combust’

Spontaneous combustion is a really nice way of saying ‘suddenly in flames’. Due to their low water and high fat content, pistachios have been known to burst out in flames. We’ve all seen temper tantrums before, but this seems a bit much. In seriousness, the nuts and its kernels can overheat when stored in the oily fibrous materials used for its transportation.

There have been urban legends of humans that have spontaneously combusted and those kinds of cases only tend to exist on paranormal TV shows. Just be wary any time you pass a huge mound of pistachio nuts.

things you never knew about food graphics - rhubarb facts

‘You can hear rhubarb grow!’

Rhubarb has been flying under the radar for a while now. It’s a humble plant, tends to stay out of the press, minds its own business. But did you know, that you can literally hear it grow? During a process known as ‘rhubarb forcing’, you will hear a cacophony of pops as the rhubarb grows.

The process began in Northern England in the 19th Century. You put the rhubarb into a dark shed, halting photosynthesis and essentially trick the plant into thinking its spring. The rhubarb will grow unnaturally large and at fast speeds. It feels quite wrong when you think about it, all that rhubarb in a dark shed, screaming out as it grows unnaturally large. But then again, it is a plant.


Food Origins

things you never knew about food graphics - lobsters were working class

‘Lobsters & Oysters used to be working class food’

Lobsters have come to be the height of sophistication. It’s on the menu in every posh restaurant in the world. But that wasn’t always the case and at one time lobster and oysters were barely worth putting on your plate.

The lobster is quite literally a sea insect and they don’t look particularly appealing either.  Back in the day, lobsters would get caught up in a fisherman’s net and they would often get tossed back in or given to servants to eat. Oysters had a similar rap, not only are they hard to harvest, but they’re not that nutritious. They had been relegated to scraps for the working class. Lobster was the equivalent of rat meat and some US states even had laws on how much lobster you could feed to a prisoner as too much was considered cruel.

In a cruel twist of irony, lobster is now one of the most requested last meals on death row. Some shrewd marketing and in the oysters’ case, some dreadful conservation, has led to a rise in popularity and price of these foods.

things you never knew about food graphics

‘The Sandwich is said to be invented by the Earl of Sandwich; a gambling addict who didn’t want to leave the table to eat.’

Imagine being the inventor of the sandwich. Imagine having that as your legacy. Well here’s what happened. The legend goes that the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, was in the midst of a 24-hour gambling streak. He required some food, but he couldn’t put down the cards. Naturally, as an Earl, he asked for someone to get him some food that wouldn’t disturb the game.

Now, we don’t know if John Montagu’s cook had already conceived the idea of putting some meat in between two slices of bread and was just waiting for the right opportunity to wheel out his daring new take on lunch. We don’t know if this request from the Earl sent his whole kitchen team into a frenzy and it took them hours to create a solution. We’ll also never know who actually created that first sandwich as it was named after the parish it was conceived in. I bet you didn’t think the first sandwich was shrouded in such mystery, but it is.

things you never knew about food graphics

‘In 16th Century England, the upper classes served Surprise Pie. When the pie was cut, a live animal would jump out!’

16th Century England was a weird time. Whilst da Vinci was designing a helicopter, Henry VIII was collecting wives, and frankly you’d a good and long life if you made it past 30 years old. Let us tell you about how the English upper classes decided to put a spin on dinner entertainment.

At this point, pretty much all food was encased in pastry if not being eaten there and then. The crust of pie was originally packaging, to be thrown away. So, pies were pretty widespread. The upper classes were known to break out a ‘surprise pie’. You would start to dig in, only for a live animal to jump out of the pie.

It has been indicated that some of the animals that have gone into these surprise pies include foxes, squirrels and frogs. Was it a practical joke? Were you supposed to catch the animal and eat it? Who knows? it was the 16th Century, Henry VIII was on his sixth wife and they were burning witches, people had more to worry about than a frog in their pie. Which is probably why the joke always worked.

things you never knew about food graphics - black pepper facts

‘In the Middle Ages, black pepper was a luxury and was so expensive, it would be used to pay rent and taxes!’

It’s hard to believe that so much of the food we eat now, products that can be bought cheaply and are readily available at most stores, used to come at such a high premium. Pepper was a luxurious spice that had often travelled from faraway places like India. As a result, pepper and other spices would only be enjoyed by wealthy nobles.

Food in the Middle Ages was considerably different. A nobleman’s diet back then would consist of a variety of meats and game, fish, spices, cheese, fruits and vegetables. It was believed that raw fruit and vegetables contained disease so these always had to be cooked. Even for nobles, vegetables were a rarity. A peasant’s diet was even worse. An estimated 85% of the population were peasants in the Middle Ages and they would typically eat bread, porridge and meat stew.

But yes, pepper was so expensive back then that you could use it as currency. Italy had a monopoly on the pepper trade and it was so lucrative that Portugal sent an explorer to get some. Vasco de Gama became the first person to sail around Africa to get to India, all in the pursuit of pepper.

 

Where does your Big Mac come from?

The Big Mac is one of McDonald’s most famous menu items and with good reason too. It’s a tasty treat that never fails to satisfy. Have you ever wondered how McDonald’s make such a yummy burger and why you can never seem to replicate that mouth-watering meal at home?

Well we’ve done our research and were surprised to discover where Big Macs actually come from. While some ingredients are locally sourced, some are well-travelled and the miles it takes to get your Big Mac to you in the familiar state you know is eye-opening. How far do they travel I hear you ask, a whopping 8,050 miles!  

Where does your Big Mac come from?

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We decided to look at how far a UK Big Mac travels, from the source to your plate. Our calculations are based on delivery to a central London restaurant.

The bun travels from Banbury in Oxfordshire, 77.5 miles away.

The beef patty has two originations – Scunthorpe in England and Ballygriffin, Grannaugh, Waterford. On average your patty will travel 270.05 miles to reach the restaurant.

Lettuce is seasonal so in summer, it comes from Chichester in the UK. In winter, it’s imported from Spain. On average your lettuce will travel 557.35 miles.

The bun, patty, and lettuce seem about normal but what about the rest of the ingredients?

Onions travel the furthest as they make their way to your Mac. McDonald’s admitted sourcing them from America. That’s 4,484 miles away. Why do McDonald’s source their onions from the US and not closer to home like the other ingredients? They claim to use a ‘very specific variety of onion’ which is better grown in the US due to their soil. They also said European suppliers couldn’t meet their demands.

mcdonalds comments on big mac onions

McDonald’s onions also differ as they are dehydrated then rehydrated in store. While they do use fresh onions for some menu items, for their burgers they use dehydrated onions. One of the benefits of dehydrating onions is that they can lost a considerable amount of time. According to Honeyville dehydrated onions can store for 10-15 years when kept correctly.  

Dill pickles, love them or hate them, double up or remove them, travel 1,930 miles to make it to your meal. The cucumber used to make dill pickles is sourced from Turkey.

The cheese and source is a bit more local for UK eaters. The cheese travels 509.2 miles, from Coleraine in Northern Ireland, and the Big Mac sauce comes from Littleborough in Lancashire, 222.6 miles away.

While some of the ingredients are locally sourced, when you add up their distance and consider where the onions and pickles are from, it adds up to quite the mileage. Do you think the distance has an impact on the quality of your burger?