Alert reader and low carb adherant Nancy C. sent us a question the other day that we couldn’t really answer. Maybe someone else out there in Blogland can help with it or has some cogent thoughts on the subject; thus I thought I’d put it to the readership.
It seems that in her quest to be an astute and informed diner, who occasionally eats a bunless McDonald’s burger when pressed for time, Nancy discovered something disturbing on the McDonald’s official nutritional information website: the presence of 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving in what are billed as burger patties made of 100% beef, no additives, no fillers, no extenders.
She wrote to us to see if we could help her unravel their source.
We were as mystified as she and quite honestly couldn’t fathom where 5 grams of carbohydrate would be coming from, if Mickey Ds is on the up and up with the patties’ being made of 100% beef. We speculated a couple of possibilities:
1) the nutritoinal info posted by McDonalds is incorrect. Surely a possibility.
2) the 100% beef, no extenders, no fillers burger might have some sort of not-technically-additive, not-technically-filler, not-techincally-extender ‘flavor enhancing substance’ containing some carb of some sort, designed to make all the patties taste uniform throughout the world. Wouldn’t be the first time Mickey Ds adopted the Unified Flavor Theory of food preparation.
3) Maybe lot feeding cattle with corn, just as carb-loading humans with pasta, packs so much glycogen into the beef muscle that it raises the amount of ‘muscle starch’ to a level of 5 grams per quarter pound of meat.
Mike feels this possibility is a stretch, citing the fact that the liver, clearly the most intensive storer of glycogen in the body (true for ours and for a cow’s, I presume) contains only 400 grams of glycogen in the whole organ, so how could a mere quarter pound of muscle contain 5 grams? So, I put a pencil to it. If a typical human liver weighs 2 kg and it contains 400 g of glycogen if fully replete, that represents 20% of its weight as glycogen. Therefore, a quarter pound of liver (weighing about 113.4 grams) would contain 22.7 grams of glycogen. Doesn’t seem all that much of a stretch to me, that a quarter pound of carb-loaded muscle might contain a quarter of that amount, but maybe we could get a veternary biochemist to weigh in on the subject.
Here’s Nancy’s letter of January 4, 2007 to McDonald’s:
“For the past 3 years, I have adhered to a pretty strictly low-carb, high-protein diet, free of high fructose corn syrup, starches, and sugars of all kinds. Unlike many people, I do not fear saturated fat, and I don’t hold McDonalds accountable for American obesity and poor health. I think that one can eat healthily at McDonalds if one chooses carefully. When I eat at McDonalds (4-5 times per month), I choose burgers or breakfast sandwiches and remove the buns/breads.
My question: I just looked at the nutrition info on your website and was startled to see that the beef patty on a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (my favorite selection) is listed as having five grams of carbohydrate. Why? The ingredient list for the beef patty claims 100% beef, no additives, fillers, or extenders. Whence, then, come the carbs? 100% beef should contain only protein and fat, with no carb, should it not?
Please inform me of the source of the carbohydrate in the beef patty. Thank you.”
Here’s the response from McDonald’s on January 5, 2007 along with my [parenthetical] comments:
Thank you for taking the time to contact McDonald’s. We are always glad to hear from our valued customers.
The website currently shows that the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese sandwich’s beef patties have 5 grams [my bold] of carbohydrates.
With the recent reanalysis, a different methodology was used to calculate the total fat content with a small decrease in total fat. [huh?] However, many foods also show a slight increase in the amount of carbohydrates.[Is this because they just subtract what’s not protein and fat and call it carb or something?] This might seem confusing for consumers, [and, if Mike and I are any indication, for physicians and nutritional experts, too] but we can assure you that there are no fillers added to the beef patties. The carbohydrates in the beef patty are more likely from indigestible fiber-like components in the meat [Puleese! What exactly is an indigestible fiber-like component and how could there be any in a 100% beef patty. I mean 100% is 100%, it doesn’t leave any room for any percentage of indigestible fiber-like components] that get counted in the carbohydrates’ category.
Again, thank you for contacting McDonald’s. We hope to have the opportunity of serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.
McDonald’s Customer Response Center”
Interestingly, I just went to the McDonald’s nutritional site to check the breakdown myself and found this page for the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Oddly, the value for carbs in the 100% beef patties is now listed as 1, not 5.
Curiouser and curiouser.
As mysteriously as they appeared, so they seem to have disappeared. And we must assume they were there, since Tina of the McDonald’s Customer Response Center verified to Nancy that indeed the site showed 5 grams and then went on to provide the surreal explanation.
So the new question for all you mystery buffs and conspiracy theorists is: where did those mystery carbs come from and where did they go?
My advice, as imparted to Nancy, is to eat grassfed natural beef (which I realize isn’t always practical or possible) and then you don’t have to rely on Mickey’s math.