Freakonomics economist Stephen Dubner explored recently whether the McDonald's McDouble — two beef patties, one American cheese slice, condiments, and a bun — is “the cheapest, most nutritious and bountiful food that has ever existed.”
McDonald's 34,000 restaurants make the burger extremely accessible. It has 390 calorie and substantial amounts of protein, calcium, and iron. And perhaps most importantly, it's usually $1.
Does that make it the world's premier superfood?
“How you answer that question says a lot about how you see the world — not only our foods system, but also the economics of it, and even social justice,” Duber said on the Freakonomics podcast.
One might argue, on one hand, that only a super corporation like McDonald's is able to deliver a product at such a low price, making it accessible to the poor. But on the other hand, one might say the low wages for workers and low payments to suppliers are keeping people poor.
I don't know which argument is right, but as David Freedman wrote in the Atlantic last month, the task of making healthy foods accessible for poor people is complicated:
After having had to worry, over countless generations, about getting enough food, poorer segments of society had little cultural bias against overindulging in food, or putting on excess pounds, as industrialization raised incomes and made rich food cheaply available. … We can ask the wholesome-food advocates, and those who give them voice, to make it clearer that the advice they sling is relevant mostly to the privileged healthy—and to start getting behind realistic solutions to the obesity crisis