The Big Mac turned 50 last year, and we’ve come to know and love it as a staple of fast-food. This beefy tower has had quite a life, surviving many changes and controversies, always maintaining its title as our favourite McDonald’s burger. Although it is now famous for its flavor, some facts about the Big Mac may still shock you to learn, so here are 10 Big Mac Facts McDonalds Always Secretly Knew About…
10. The Big Mac was invented by franchise owner, Jim Delligatti
You might think that the Big Mac was crafted by flavor scientists or CEOs, but it actually has much humbler beginnings in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Jim Delligatti bought the Uniontown McDonald’s after meeting Ray Kroc, the owner of the McDonald’s company at the time, at a restaurant fair in 1955. By the 1960s, Jim Delligatti had earned himself some regular customers, many of whom worked at the nearby steel mill. Working with steel all day gave these customers quite the appetite, and it became clear to Delligatti that his food couldn’t quite fill them up. Delligatti then decided to make a bigger, more filling burger with two patties, some onions and some pickles. This rolled out in Uniontown in 1967 for the fair price of 45 cents. This was so popular that, in just one year, the Big Mac was on the menu of every single American McDonald’s. In 1969, the Big Mac made up 19% of all sales! McDonald’s gave Delligatti a plaque to commemorate his invention and Delligatti apparently went on to eat a Big Mac every week. In 2007, he opened the Big Mac museum in Irwin, Pennsylvania, which is home to the world’s largest Big Mac. Imagine how many steel workers that could feed!
9. The ‘Special Sauce’ recipe has been changed multiple times
This Special Sauce is a staple of the Big Mac and has been kept top secret since its creation in the 1960’s. Originally called ‘Secret Sauce’, this signature flavor combination has undergone multiple re-brands and redesigns before becoming the Special Sauce we all know and love. When the Big Mac released, McDonald’s made two different sauces for the Big Mac. After seeing that both sauces were popular, they combined them into one mega-sauce, which contained all the best bits of each. This was then branded ‘Big Mac Sauce ’72’. Although the name was changed to ‘Special Sauce’ in 1974, the recipe itself went unchanged for nearly 20 years. This legacy was ended in 1991, when McDonald’s HQ decided to tweak this classic recipe. However, this classic sauce was revived in 2004, when Fred Turner (former McDonald’s CEO and friend of Ray Kroc) wanted the original recipe back on the Big Mac. After a search of the archives, the original recipe was found, and the Special Sauce was returned with the help of the original suppliers! Thanks to Fred Turner, we can now taste the Big Mac in all its glory. Who would’ve thought that a 50-year-old sauce would taste so good?
8. It wasn’t always called the ‘Big Mac’
Nowadays, the Big Mac is a household name, and has been an iconic member of the McDonald’s menu for over 50 years. When it was first released in 1968, the recipe was perfect, but the naming needed some work. The original names for this beautifully beefy burger were the ‘Aristocrat’ and the ‘Blue Ribbon Burger’. Both of these were flops at the marketplace, with many people finding ‘Aristocrat’ hard to pronounce and confusing. This isn’t surprising considering the burger was intended for laborers to enjoy, not just the rich. The ‘Big Mac’ name was eventually coined by a woman named Esther Glickstein Rose. Rose was working as an advertising secretary for McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook Illinois when she saw the Big Mac and created the catchy title. According to Rose, her bosses originally laughed it off when she suggested it! Little did they know that the Big Mac would be the most successful of the names in the marketplace and would then be rolled out to every store. Half a century later, the name has survived. The Big Mac has become one of our most-loved McDonald’s goodies, and the name might be one of the reasons it is now the second best-selling items of all time (if you’re wondering, fries take the top spot).
7. Everyone knows the top-secret sauce recipe!
For years, McDonald’s has marketed their Big Mac sauce as a secret recipe and has even sold bottles of the coveted Big Mac Sauce to hungry buyers. Amazingly, one bottle of Special Sauce sold for nearly $100,000 on eBay. Clearly it was a valuable secret, but nowadays, it’s an open one. Who let the cat out of the bag? McDonalds did! In 2012, the Vice President of Culinary Innovation for McDonald’s, Dan Coudreaut, showed everyone how to make the Big Mac (including the Special Sauce) from home. According to the video, it’s a mix of mayo, mustard, sweet pickle relish and white wine vinegar seasoned with onion, garlic and paprika. Although he shows you the method, he doesn’t give exact measurements, so you might need to do some guesswork and taste as you go. However, even this is controversial, as according to The Mirror, the real recipe has been leaked online and differs from the one shown in the video. The leaked recipe contains more ingredients (33, in total) than the McDonalds instructional video uses, such as high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. It seems McDonald’s will never take away the mystery of the Special Sauce.
6. One man has eaten 30,000 of them
We all love a cheeky McDonald’s, but this man has taken it to the extreme. Don Gorske is the Guinness World Record holder for Big Mac digestion for more than 15 years and has eaten Big Macs nearly every day since he first tasted one in 1972. On the day it all started, Gorske ordered three Big Macs and immediately fell in love. He went back later that day and got 6 more, and was hooked. At the start of his obsession, he ate 265 Big Macs in a month. This amounts to 4,600 calories and 247 grams of fat per day, well above the recommended daily allowance. According to Gorske, the habit started as when told himself he would eat Big Macs every day until he was drafted for the Vietnam War. In the end he wasn’t drafted, so he never stopped! Nowadays, he’s down to just two Big Macs a day, and he always keeps back-ups. So he never misses a day, he keeps six Big Macs stored in his freezer for emergencies, and even packs Big Macs in his luggage for flights! Gorske has been a loyal McDonald’s customer for years, and although he has no serious health problems from this diet, it is crazy how addictive the Big Mac really is.
5. The Big Mac is no longer trademarked
McDonalds recently went head-to-head with an Irish chain called ‘Supermac’s’ in a trademark dispute, where they lost the EU trademarking rights for the Big Mac. This is a big deal as McDonalds barely ever lose court cases, and this one meant that other fast-food joints can legally sell copy-cat Big Macs. Supermac’s made the complaint against McDonald’s, accusing them of ‘trademark bullying’. They claimed that McDonalds used the Big Mac name to prevent Supermac’s from being able to trademark their own name in the EU and expanding through Europe. Supermac’s called the win a “victory for all small businesses”, but this was a big loss for McDonald’s. Immediately after the ruling, Burger King released a new line of fast food items called ‘Not Big Macs’ which included burgers such as the ‘Kind of like a Big Mac but juicier and tastier’. That’s some pretty direct shade you’re throwing there, Burger King! Obviously, this was not ideal for McDonald’s and they have already started their appeal for the verdict to change. In the meantime, we can at least enjoy the trolling, and the many more Big-Mac-like burgers that can piggyback on this verdict for our pleasure.
4. It inspired the ‘Big Mac Index’
The Big Mac Index was invented by The Economist in 1986 as an easily-digestible (pardon the pun) guide to comparing economies. It is used to test the idea that exchange rates should line up in different countries so that the price of goods (or Big Macs) is the same. The so-called ‘Burgernomics’ allows them to create a Big Mac exchange rate. For example, Big Macs in the US cost $5, whereas they cost 20 yuan in China, making an exchange rate of 1:4. The actual exchange rate is $1=6.4 yuan and so this means that the Big Mac in China is undervalued (cheaper) compared with the US Big Mac. There’s some more complex maths that comes afterwards, but this is essential what they use the Big Mac Index for. The Big Mac Index was intended to be a method of making exchange rates clearer for The Economist’s reader but has since taken off. It is now a global standard, and has become widely used in textbooks and academic research. Aside from helping us learn about the economy, Burgernomics shows you where to get a cheaper Big Mac, with Switzerland being the most expensive and Russia being the cheapest. I know where I’m going on holiday next!
3. Big Macs aren’t the same everywhere
Before you pack your bags to get the cheapest Big Mac you can find, bear in mind that the Big Mac changes recipe depending on the country it is being sold in. One surprising tweak is that, in some places, the Big Mac doesn’t use beef. McDonald’s is the world’s largest user of beef, and so in places like India, where the cow is revered, McDonald’s isn’t quite as beloved as it is here. Pro-cow rallies are common in India, so to avoid controversy, they have stripped beef from the whole menu. Due the 140 million Indian Muslims, there is also no pork, so all menu items are substituted with either mutton or chicken. Therefore, the Big Mac there is called the ‘Maharaja Mac’ and it I quite different to the classic burger we know. With chicken patties, habanero sauce, jalapenos and tomatoes, it shares very little with its ancestor. It doesn’t even have the Special Sauce! Although it might seem that this would be successful, there is also a large amount of resistance against multinationals setting up shop in India, and so the restaurants are often empty. McDonalds tried to cut prices to draw people in, so the Maharaja Mac now costs 187 rupees, or 3.61 Canadian Dollars. It’s a pretty good deal, right? The future of the Big Mac is uncertain in India, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of other places you can get your fix.
2. McDonald’s wanted to pay rappers to say ‘Big Mac’ in their songs
Back in 2005, McDonald’s thought up a new and scandalous way to advertise their favourite burger to young people. The plan was to pay rappers up to $5 every time a song containing the ‘Big Mac’ was played on air. Although they allowed the rappers to write the burger into the song in any way they wanted, McDonald’s had the final say over whether the lyrics were appropriate. Although this isn’t the first time that products have been promoted in rap music (Gucci, Bentley and Porsche to name a few), there was backlash when thee plans were announced. Nowadays, it is much easier to tell when content is sponsored. Laws now require influencers and YouTubers to state whether what they are posting is a paid promotion. Back in 2005, however, people were worried that children would not understand that the artists were paid to advertise the burger. They were also concerned about the already alarming rates of childhood obesity being increased by these targeted advertisements. The McDonald’s company defended itself, saying: “each McDonald’s market has the freedom to design programmes that best resonate with customers”. They had also made efforts to promote a balanced lifestyle and offer more fruit and veg on the menu. This plan eventually stalled and so there is not much Big-Mac-themed music hitting the airwaves. I guess we’ll have to make do with songs about love and heartbreak for now.
1. 80% of Millennials have never tried a Big Mac
This one is shocking! According to the Wall Street Journal, only 1 in 5 people 18-34 have ever tried a Big Mac. Despite it being the second most popular item on the menu, it seems that young people just aren’t lovin’ it. So why isn’t the Big Mac selling to millennials? A franchisee reportedly told McDonald’s that is has ‘gotten less relevant with time’. Millennial consumers are generally choosing fresher, made-to-order burgers nowadays, such as Five Guys and Shake Shack. Research shows that millennials are particularly concerned about the healthiness and ethics of their purchases. McDonald’s are trying to access this crowd, by making all burgers to order and using fresh beef. They have also gone wider with the effort, using cage-free eggs and removing antibiotics from their food. But is this modern rebranding enough to save the Big Mac from obscurity? Well, the Big Mac has been made a comeback last year with the Grand Mac, the Big Mac’s super-sized cousin, selling out across the UK in what some branches called a ‘national shortage’. This limited edition 50th anniversary burger gave the Big Mac some much-needed promotion and proved that the Big Mac is not as obsolete as everyone had thought.