My McDonald’s Field To Restaurant Tour Experience #McDTour



I was compensated by McDonald’s for my participation in this campaign as part of the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. Thoughts are my own.

I mentioned last week that I was going on a “Field To Restaurant” tour with McDonalds. Well I must say, I loved every part of the tour! So let me share what happened as I try to impart some of the things I learned that day.

We all met early in the morning (yes, 8am is early for me!) at a McDonald’s in San Jose, CA. I was actually surprised to find out that the tour delegates weren’t all bloggers. Aside from the McDonald’s PR and marketing people which I expected to be there, some of the people there are McDonald’s franchise owners, and some are local newspaper correspondents.

McDonald's Field To Restaurant Tour Experience #McDTour

One of my highlights for that morning was getting to see my blogging buddies again. That is, aside from the fact that I had my favorite hashbrowns for breakfast. LOL!

We left San Jose  and headed to Salinas on a very nice bus which has WiFi and a restroom (nice!) on board. During the second half of our ride to Salinas, Steve Peat (owner of 9 McDonald’s restaurants in Gilroy, CA) of the Greater Bay Area McDonald’s Cooperative gave some welcome remarks and an overview of our tour.

My Experience at the #McDTour

Left: That’s me and Icar of MyCharmedMom.com at the registration table
Right: That’s me hugging Lynda of MommyPowers.us

 

Arrival at Chiquita Fresh Express — McDonald’s supplier for apples and produce

We arrived at Chiquita Fresh Express Facility in Salinas a little before 10am and were welcomed by Chiquita Fresh Express’ Kathie Baka who handles quality support for McDonald’s.  She gave a presentation on all the processes the apples and produce go through before delivering them out to various McDonald’s locations.

#McDTour - Presentation

Left: Kathie Baka giving us a presentation full of information on how McDonald’s apples are produced
Right: Bloggers constantly posting on social media! That’s Lynda, me, Icar and Ana of BonggaMom.com

 

Production area tour 

We all got excited when it was time to actually see the production of McDonald’s Apple Slices and Diced Apples. We had to wear a jacket because it was 32 degrees inside the production area, and were required to wear non-slip boots, a hairnet (and a beardnet for the men), a hard hat, a lab coat, latex gloves, and plastic sleeves.

And even though we already washed our hands before putting on our gear, we still had to dip our gloved hands into a sanitizing solution as we entered the production area. We also were not allowed to bring any gadgets or wear accessories/jewelry. That’s how strict they are when it comes to safety, cleanliness and sanitation inside the plant.

My Experience at the #McDTour 1

Left: The handwash station has around 8 faucets and 2 soap dispensers.
Right: Getting last minute instructions from Plant Director Nanu.

The apples smelled so good inside the plant, but I eventually became noseblind to it the longer we stayed inside. There are 2 different machinery in the area we toured — one for the sliced apples and one for the diced apples.

The plant director showed us the entry point of the apples where they get washed in water. The apples are then automatically brought to the part of the machine that peels off the skin, takes out the core and slices them.

Why do they have to peel the sliced apples? They say it’s to prevent choking since the sliced apples are mostly in Happy Meals which are for kids. But they don’t peel off the skin for the diced apples because the pieces are already small. They did mention that it’s better to eat an apple with the skin on because you’ll get more nutrients.

#McDTour Apples

After getting sliced, there are quality control people that reject the not-so-good apple slices — ones that aren’t the right shape or size. The same thing is done by people on the other side checking the diced apples. The apples are dipped in an ascorbic acid solution — think lemon juice — that prevents discoloration, and are transported to the packing area.

You might ask, where do all the “rejected” apples go? We learned that anything that didn’t go into the finished packs (apple peels, core, non-crescent-shaped slices, etc) are used as feed.

As we saw the finished packs, we learned that each one has a code that tells them when and where the apples were produced. So in the event that someone calls McDonald’s up and complains about their apples, Chiquita can identify which plant, which line, which farm, which row and which tree the apple came from — all within 2 hours.

#McDTour 09/19/2014

Chiquita Fresh Express also puts in some sort of metal onto the conveyor every 30 minutes which they expect the scanner/detector to reject. If their machine doesn’t detect that metal, production stops so they can take out everything that was produced within the last 30 minutes and fix whatever needs to be fixed in their machines. I think that’s one of the most amazing things I learned in the tour. I love the fact that they’re very proactive in making sure they supply McDonald’s with only the best apples.

 

Lunch with Chefs SakaBozzo

After touring the plant, we headed over to Chiquita Fresh Express’ test kitchen for a gourmet lunch prepared by Chef Gene Sakahara and Chef Sam Bozzo (as a duo they call themselves Chefs SakaBozzo). They are both headlining chefs at the Gilroy Garlic Festival and they consider themselves twins separated at birth. I must say they are one hilarious duo!

#McDTour 09/19/2014

Chefs SakaBozzo is joined by Steve Peat as they addressed the group

Chefs SakaBozzo created a full gourmet meal for us using only McDonald’s ingredients. The only thing they were allowed to add were spices but pretty much everything on the menu is from McDonald’s.

First to come out was the Italian Wedding Soup — italian meatballs married in beef broth with fresh spinach and garlic bread. What I liked about it was that the soup itself was very simple, nothing over the top, which I think complements the taste of the meatballs.

Lunch Menu #McDTour

The second course was Ensalad Misto (mixed greens with cucumber slices, grape tomatoes dressed with citrus blueberry vinaigrette) and the entree was Chicken Braciole (rolled chicken breasts stuffed with white cheddar cheese, fresh spinach, slivered onions and parsley) topped with Amatraciana Sauce (roasted tomatoes, bacon, and herbs). That Chicken Braciole was scrumptious!

We then had Budino Di Pane e Mela for dessert. It’s old fashioned bread pudding with apple slices partnered with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel drizzle. Can you imagine the taste on your tongue? It was hard to imagine that the bread pudding used McDonald’s artisan roll. It’s just amazing how they can make so many dishes (that you’d probably only find in fine dining restaurants) using only ingredients from McDonald’s.

 

Discussion with John Cisna

The last agenda of the day was a discussion with John Cisna, the Iowa teacher who lost nearly 60 pounds earlier this year by eating only McDonald’s food as part of a classroom experiment. I was really looking forward to this part of the day. I heard about him in the news months ago and have since been curious as to how he did it.

#McDTour 09/19/2014

John Cisna highlighted the importance of choice. The difference between him and Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me) was that Spurlock ate everything that was offerred to him, while Cisna watched what he was eating and walked for 45 minutes 5 days a week. Spurlock gained about 24 lbs in 1 month, while Cisna lost 37 lbs in 3 months. Two different results for 2 people who ate from the same fast food.

He shared about the time he went to a doctor for a check up during the course of the experiment. The doctor said everything looked good and Cisna couldn’t believe it. So much that he asked the doctor to double check and told him about his current diet at that time. When the doctor heard that he was eating only McDonald’s food, he immediately left Cisna to double check the records but went back to confirm that it was Cisna’s.

John’s bottom line is, it isn’t the venue that should be in question. It should be our choices.

Honestly, John Cisna just echoed my thoughts from even before I went on this tour.

I know a lot of moms may think I’m an irresponsible person for eating at McDonald’s and a bad mother for allowing my son to eat McDonald’s food. But my family and I are healthy; my latest blood work can attest to that. I eat at McDonald’s but not everyday. Most of our meals are still cooked at home. It’s just sad that some like to point fingers and blame others for their health when it’s really our personal choices that can make or break us — health-wise or otherwise.

Simple Steps At McDonalds

Click to open the pdf file

Now because of this tour, I learned the many changes that McDonald’s is making in their menu.  By 2020, they committed to do the following in 20 major markets including the US:

  • Offer customers a choice of a side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute for French fries in value meals
  • Feature only water, milk and juice as the beverage in Happy Meals on menu boards and in-store and external advertising directed to children
  • Utilize Happy Meals and other packaging and designs to generate excitement of fruit, vegetable, low/reduced fat dairy or water options for kids or offer these options in the Happy Meal
  • Include a fun nutrition or children’s well-being message in 100% of advertising directed at children
  • Reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations
  • Reduce sodium by an average of 15% overall across the national menu of food choices, excluding beverages (by 2015).

I think it’s great that McDonald’s is making sure that they offer good options to its consumers. And even though they’re still in the process of making these changes, don’t forget that you can always ask for customizations on your order — like leaving out the cheese or the dressing, or choosing grilled chicken instead of crispy chicken.

 

Do you eat at McDonald’s too? Do you make customizations on your orders or do you order the meals as is? Let me know in the comments below!

 

I was compensated by McDonald’s for my participation in this campaign as part of the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. Thoughts are my own. Photos courtesy of McDonald’s and Golin.




Comments

My McDonald’s Field To Restaurant Tour Experience #McDTour — 52 Comments

  1. wow I would have loved to have gone with you, I have always wanted to see how they do so many stuff inside there plants.. its so great to see MC D getting in on the Healthy ban waggon 🙂 hehe

  2. I agree 8 a.m. is early in the morning to be up and out. That was an interesting way to spend the day. It’s nice that they use every last bit of food instead of wasting it.

  3. I am so glad that you had such a wonderful time touring McDonalds! I was totally impressed by how they do the apples for the Happy Meals! I guess you didn’t get a chance to see how the burgers are made or what goes on with that part of McDonalds this time around. That’s what I would love to see! I’ve said it before that the last several months when we’ve gotten McDonald’s hamburgers, they are sooooo salty that we can’t even eat them! I Love McDonald’s Chicken Sandwiches, which is my way of avoiding the hamburgers. I generally order off of the dollar menu so I don’t get the Huge Fries! I do like McDonalds and I take the kids there pretty much (not every day though) Thanks for sharing your terrific day with all of us and sharing the pictures too! I really enjoyed reading all about your field trip! Thanks again, Michele 🙂

  4. This is a great post, very interesting. I eat at McDonald’s every now and again, my favorite items to order are french fries and apple pie. I can eat healthy food at home, so I don’t choose healthy options from McDonald’s. Thank you for sharing this post.

  5. I do eat at McDonalds. I normally order a yogurt parfait, side salad and grilled chicken to go wrap with no sauce. Like you said, it’s all about choices. People have to be responsible for what they put in their mouths and stop blaming the establishments they eat at. I am glad to go to McDonalds and see the calorie count displayed on the menu boards.
    Michele recently posted..Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets RecipeMy Profile

  6. By 2020, they committed to do the following in 20 major markets including the US:Offer customers a choice of a side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute for French fries in value meals.
    WHY IS IT GOING TO TAKE 6 YEARS TO OFFER A SUBSTITUTE FOR FRENCH FRIES?

    • Hi Katt! I’m not sure, but I’m thinking maybe they need to make sure they’re able to source the additional demand to make it a standard option in all 20 major markets? They used “by” and not “in” so that doesn’t mean all those changes are only going to happen in 2020. Just that by then, those changes should already be a standard. They’re a big company so blanket changes aren’t going to be that easy to implement right away. We could however already ask to substitute our fries for something else (but it’s not yet a standard in 20 major markets). 🙂
      Alice recently posted..Step2 Deluxe Workbench GiveawayMy Profile

  7. Sounds like it was a great tour and very educational on McDonald’s food prep operations. I was really impressed on the part where you mention that every 30 minutes, they put a piece of metal on the conveyor belt to test the accuracy of the equipment. I’m also excited about the healthier changes McDonald’s will be making in the future. I eat at McDonald’s, mostly for breakfast, and I of course love their fries. lol. I try not to eat there very often, but it’s good to know that when I do, I can be a bit more confident in their food.

  8. Wow looks to me like you had a ball, I never thought about Farm to Store night with McDonalds, but you are correct, reading about the apples and how they are packaged and why they are peeled was very interesting, it is nice to see that Chiquita has such a regimen to help protect us from contamination with all the protective gear your wore and the Italian Meatball soup looks great, thank you for sharing.

  9. McDonalds is a fascinating experience, and it’s good to read that choices are the key no matter where one chooses to eat. Healthy choices start at home, and McDonalds’ re-image branding reads encouraging. Hopefully, McDonalds will institute the changes you point out worldwide. Developing countries have voracious appetites for Western fast foods, as well as growing waistlines. Thanks for the scoop.

  10. This sounds like it would have been a fun experience I would have loved to try! Yes, I am an occasional McY D’s eater! I love that they have fruit and milk for healthy options. I usually order as-is though.

  11. This is pretty cool. Kudos to McDonalds for taking the time to do something like this. With all the horror stories you see now a days about fast food, this could be a big game changer for some consumers.

  12. Pingback: I'll Be Going On A McDonald's Tour! #McDTour - Bay Area Mommy

  13. I eat McDonald’s on occasion, I love the chicken salads as they come. It really is the only thing I eat from there. I love how they handle the process of the apples though. Very cool.

  14. I am very impressed with the tour. How can we join the tour? Me and 6 others will be in Salinas and San Luis Obispo in late March 2015.
    I appreciate your info.

  15. Awesome tour. We eat at Mcdonalds once or twice a month and I am able to customize my food for my needs. It doesn’t hurt to treat yourself once in awhile.

  16. The food they served doesn’t really sound too good to me. I’d rather have a fish filet with extra sauce. That’s my favorite sandwich there.

  17. My husband has an uncle that owns a McDonalds. I’ve never met him but I think that would be quite hectic to run. I suspect that you’d pretty much be on call 24-7.

  18. Pingback: Is a McDonald’s Happy Meal Really That Bad for your Kids?

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