1996 McDonalds Hamburger

I teach a workshop titled Healthy Choices for Children.  It’s a class for parents seeking solutions to how to improve the way they eat. It’s about the alternative food market, organics, and the top ten food additives to avoid and why, menu planning and more.  It’s a 3 session fabulously informative interactive class.

Below is my absolutely favorite prop.

People are always astounded when I share this.

I have used this as show and tell for a very long time.

This is a hamburger from McDonalds that I purchased in 1996.

That was 12 years ago.

Note that it looks exactly like it did the very day I bought it.

The flecks on the burger are crumbs from the bun.

The burger is starting to crumble a bit.

It has the oddest smell.

The paper and bag in the backround is circa 2008 – to add decor to the photo. My friend Robyn’s idea.

This is the retro welch’s grape juice plastic container I have always kept it in. People always ask me – what did you do to preserve it ?

Nothing – it preserved itself.

Ladies, Gentleman, and children alike – this is a chemical food. There is absolutely no nutrition here.

Not one ounce of food value.  Or at least value for why we are eating in the first place.

The burger on the right, off the paper is a 2008 burger.  I had to buy it to get the groovy paper and bag.

The meat is a tad darker, the bun a little less golden but in 12 years it will look exactly like that too.

Do you find this horrifying?

McDonalds fills an empty space in your belly. It does nothing to nourish the cell, it is not a nutritious food.

It is not a treat.

I marvel at how McDonalds has infiltrated our entire world. A hamburger here tastes exactly the same in China or some around the world place.

It’s cloned.

Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Do me a favor and share this.

K a r e n     H a n r a h a n
Wellness Educator/Nutritional Consultant
Mentoring YOU to Health Success

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1,478 Responses to 1996 McDonalds Hamburger

  1. Ann says:

    I think someone should taste it. I bet if you heated it up it would taste just like new. Who’s game?

  2. Ken says:

    badababada im luvin it( even though it will probably moldy and hard)!

  3. nature's cure says:

    forget about the meat… theirs no way this is possible do to the fact bread starts to mold after awhile… even if it doesn’t touch air it still will mold..and carrying around that bun for 12 years and showing it off like its some show and tell or noble prize you’re definitely going to get molding not Golding… i don’t know if you’re plan crazy for doing something like this, Or you just truly believe it… but this experiment your conducting can’t be healthy just for germ reasons.. it’s definitely not sanitary… plus this is McDonald’s your talking about here, not a 5 star restaurant… any cheap meat would be questionable.. If you wanna talk chemicals in food maybe you should do your research and little after school project on MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) what the Army and soldiers have to live off of… so stop complaining, McDonald’s is a fine cuisine and fresh compared to that.. (Trust me I would know)

  4. onegreengoddess says:

    Thank you Karen for such a clear example of the difference between ‘being edible’ and ‘food’. This is a terrific prop for discussion and education!

    I am so surprised by some of the comments here. It’s simple, people: Food rots, period. Formerly living tissue rots and putrefies. So, if it doesn’t rot, it’s NOT FOOD!

    • Ky says:

      ‘I am so surprised by some of the comments here. It’s simple, people: Food rots, period. Formerly living tissue rots and putrefies. So, if it doesn’t rot, it’s NOT FOOD!’

      Well it’s been amply demonstrated that this assertion is wildly incorrect, as has the whole premise of this website. Are we going to see some retractions?

  5. Ms. Ali says:

    McDonalds is not food. Seriously, who in good conscience could feed their family that crap? Anything that does not rot should not be put into your body. Disgusting on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

  6. Poul Nielsen says:

    Wow that is shocking. I will never eat a McDonalds burger again – the last one I ate was years ago.
    I am going to share your post with my Twitter followers. BTW how is the burger looking today?

  7. Actually, I’ve conducted a controlled experiment on McD’s and homemade food. Preliminary results here: http://sparkasynapse.blogspot.com/2010/10/of-mushrooms-molds-and-mcdonalds-day_31.html

  8. Susie says:

    You are scientifically wrong. It turns out NO burgers of that size will rot.


    bacteria needs moisture; dehydrated food won’t rot and a burger of that size dehydrates quickly.

  9. Susie Creamcheese says:

    As a microbiologist, your experiment disturbs me. It’s bad science. Here’s somebody who actually conducted an experiment correctly: http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-burger-lab-revisiting-the-myth-of-the-12-year-old-burger-testing-results.html

    (And I chuckled when I saw a Susie above this that had posted something similar).

    I’m not against your fight, I’m actually a vegetarian and am proud to say I haven’t eaten fast food in a decade. I just don’t want to see an educator teaching things that are wrong. I also wouldn’t want to see someone such as yourself, an educator teaching children how to eat properly, end of getting sued by McDonald’s because of false claims.. Such as “this is a chemical food”. A very vague statement, but potentially harmful one for you to have made from a very unscientific, uneducated experiment.

  10. D-Hoggs says:

    Susie, I was going to post the same thing. How much you want to bet that “best of mother earth” will NEVER acknowledge her deception? Talk about intellectual dishonesty.

  11. grace dy says:

    you know before when they were bitching on you i thought ok she’s a nice person why do people keep insulting her?when i read how you responded i just got pissed at you for some reason.i don’t know maybe its your tone or how you reply to their “immature” comments but seriously you shouldn’t do that because your just acting as “immature” as they are.

  12. ryuujin says:

    why don’t you try with other hamburger? Infact, it works also with home-made hamburger…. it depends on ratio between weight and volume. Infact, if the ratio allows to lose all humidity, the meat became mummified and is immortal 😉

  13. Michael S. says:

    @nature’s cure

    Have you ever heard of flatbread? Crisp bread? Rusks? Or maybe proscuttio or Parma ham? Or dried fruits?

    Humans have preserved food by drying it for thousands and thousands of years.

    Dried foods do not mold. That’s it. As long as you keep them dry, the mold spores don’t have access to the water they need to grow. The reason the bun hasn’t molded isn’t because the bread is filled with chemicals. I had a quarter of a loaf of bread in my bread basket that I forgot to throw away before I went away for a month. The bread was organic and baked in a local bakery. Had it molded when I came back? Of course not, because it was out in the open, not in a plastic bag.

    Anyone who thinks there are weird chemicals in the patty itself, here’s an experiment you can try at home. Buy or make your own ground beef from whatever cut of meat you want. Don’t add any chemicals at all, just some salt. Make a patty that is THE SAME SIZE as the McDonald’s patty. This is crucial. Leave it out and see if it molds. It won’t. The McDonald’s patty is very thin, not at all like a burger you would make at home, that is juiciy in the middle. The McDonald’s patty will dry out, and when meat has no moisture – you guessed it, mold spores can’t grow on it.

    Occam’s Razor says that the simplest solution is most often the correct one. This case is no different. It isn’t the chemicals in the burgers that make them not mold, it’s the natural process of drying that we’ve used to preserve food for thousands of years. If you don’t believe me, but a McDonald’s burger just like that one, and put it in a sealed plastic bag, and see how long it takes for it to start to rot.

  14. @ The mold guy: McDonald’s buns NEVER mold, they need something they never really had in the first place to do that, it is called moisture. They instead basically mummify….they dry out, just like the one in the photograph.
    @ The conspiracy theorist: How the heck did a convo about a dehydrated old hamburger end up in a convo about guns? You have illustrated there is no need to even ask if you are insane. Thank you for saving us the time.
    McDonald’s is garbage and anyone who knows anything about nutrition knows that. The only offerings they include on the menu that aren’t are laden with chemicals like sulfites which many people are allergic to. They forgot that the reason they started serving fruit was to offer FRESH items. They make everything out of chemicals and fillers and not much else.
    As for chemicals in the burger, it may be just a moisture issue…since the burgers are kept warm in a steamer following preparation until used or until their set post-cooking shelf life is over at which time they are supposed to throw them away and make new. Seriously every fast food restaurant does the same thing with fillers and chemicals mostly. Better to pack a brown bag and put in only what you choose to eat. For those of you not educated to what those extras are, trust me when I tell you if you saw a plate of them sitting around you would not want to put them in your mouth much less swallow them. And overeating is a horrible epidemic in the US. We are the fattest nation in he world…not something to be proud of.

  15. @ Those of you that cannot see the pictures….try adjusting your browser settings. If that doesn’t work you may have either too little memory or space for it to load on your computer, or perhaps you need a plugin or adobe flash or something.
    I am seeing them just fine and I have only intermediate space and memory, but I do have the newest version of Adobe Flash.

  16. Steve says:

    You seem to have strange ideas about “nutrionial value”. A bag of sugar has high nutrional value, so has a bottle of cooking oil, and so has this dubious hamburger. It may not be healthy or appetizing, but you can certainly digest it and draw energy from it. It may be bad food, but it still is food. Of course there is more to nutrition than calories, like essential vitamins, minerals and the like. But they are secondary, their lack shows only when this stuff is the only thing you eat, long term. Lengthy wars have been won by armies fed on stuff worse than this burger.

  17. noysboy says:

    I havent read all the comments, but I am interested in knowing if anything has changed in the McDonalds food ingredients/prep since 1996. It would be an interesting experiment to buy one hamburger per year and compare them moving forward…to see if anything gets better or worse!

  18. the nut says:

    Yall are werid!

  19. Hank says:

    So it contains a bucketload of calories, but it has NO nutricial value??
    Come on now..
    That burger contains a lot of fat, obviously, because it’s meat.
    What do you recon is most natural kind of “fuel” that your muscles other organs mainly “run” on?

    That’s right, FAT!

    Obviously one couldn’t live on burgers alone, your body needs more that just fuel.. that’s why you also need vegetables, fruit, milk and other so called “healthy” stuff.
    But there is nothing wrong with fat at all, even saturated fats.
    They are VERY common in meat and human beeings have been eating lot’s of it throughout our existence..
    They won’t make you fat, as long as you don’t over-eat, and they won’t screw up your cholesterol.

    Just avoid transfats, don’t know if there’s any of those in those burgers but i think the big yellow M company says there are no transfats in any of their products.

    • Jay says:

      Your muscles and other organs do NOT run on fat, unless you’re in the process of teaching your body to do so (reference the Atkins diet). Your muscle (and other organs) use protein and carbohydrates. Regardless of how you feel about the credibility of this burger, the only thing you really need to know is: it’s unhealthy.

      I work in a health and fitness industry. A figure competitor or body builder would not be caught dead near one of these fast food restaurants, even during the off seasons for a “cheat meal.” Why? Because real athletes understand that everything in life has consequences, including what you put into your body. Good fuel = good body. Fast food = bad body & poor performance. I actually have a friend who lives on junk food. When he goes to the doctor, he’s told that he’s slightly overweight, but all of his blood tests come back normal. Those are standard measures. When he actually has his enzyme levels checked, his liver and pancreatic functions are depleting.

      It’s like a car. Sure, a car can run on old oil and stale fuel. It can even get you to your destination and back every day reliably. But you’re causing undue wear and tear and increasing the odds that you will not make it home a day sooner.

      It’s your body. Do what you want. And thank all of your friends for me who are helping with the positive trend driving the health care and insurance industries.

      In the meantime, I would also encourage parents to keep their kids away from fast food. It’s just like smoking and drinking. Let your children make up their mind when they’re old enough. Until then, give them the best chance they have of living a long and healthy life by not exposing them to things that may be detrimental. Hell, if it’s in question, why not just avoid it altogether. Even if we’re “wrong,” and McDs can help you live forever, what harm are you doing by avoiding it and giving your kids fresh wholesome food? None. You owe it to them.

      • Hank says:

        That’s a very enlightening peace of text there with a lot of facts to support it.
        Just saying you work in the “food and fitness industry” and calling certain food “bad” because you’ve been tought so is the easy way out.
        Don’t be ignorant. There’s a lot of really good info out there that contradicts popular beliefs.

        I’m not saying McD food is super healthy, and I am definately not saying we should all base our diets on it.
        But those burgers aren’t harmful either. It’s just meat (the packaging says it’s 100% meat) Mostly grilled too so no additional fats are used.

        I just get sick of all people running after eachother like a bunch of idiots. And I get even more sick of the bullcrap that the media, the government and those huge company’s in the food industry put out.
        Eat what you want. Any food today (even the oh-so healthy milk and vegetables) these day’s have all kinds of stuff in it that isn’t really good for you. It’s just part of the world today.
        Our body’s are quite adaptive. we can deal with most “bad” things as long as our diets are varied enough.

  20. Shawn M Cox says:

    1st you have the hamburger off center and hidden by the top bun which is an attempt to hide the fact that the 1996 hamburger has shrank in size and is smaller than the 2008 also the bun won’t mold if you keep it in a dry place as far as the bread hardening it is toasted which holds moisture in heck even home cooked hamburgers have the same effect you haven’t proved anything but your lack of knowledge.

  21. SAmmy says:

    white people are gay do not beleive him

  22. Lefty Farkleberry says:

    Burger Blues
    By: Lefty Farkleberry

    Apparently, I can get a burger now
    At my local Mickey “D’s”,
    “Freshly” fried to order,
    Hold the lettuce, onions, pickles please.

    Then, take that savory Happy-slab
    Of ground-up cow on home,
    Park it for a score of years,
    Until it resembles greasy Styrofoam.

    Wonder if an archeologist will find it,
    A fossilized Quarter Pound?
    And if Ronald, then, will want it back,
    To sell it one more round?

  23. god says:

    repent. the end is near.


  24. What? I was shocked serious about what i have read here!.. But of course I’m still not convinced about the pictures. Food can take at least a day, a week or even a month. But not seriously in years. Do food can preserve that very long spun of time? I don’t think so!

  25. Chris says:

    I feel sorry for those of you trying to claim that the McDonald’s burger is actually nutritious. If you know anything about meat or food in general, you would know that natural pasteurization is impossible. McDonald’s has created a product so based on preservation that it can not decay at all. What food in nature do you know that will stay dead for years without any signs of decay? This food is so disgusting, even fungi won’t touch it. You are eating industrial “beef” processed with formaldehyde, bleach and many other sanitizers/preservers and artificial flavors to cover up the fact that the meat was almost inedible in the first place.

    For those of you who think you “know nutrition”, look into how modern cow feeding methods compare to their natural diet. You will find that they are being poisoned with food they can’t process without antibiotics. If you don’t think that affects you, look into how the affects on radiation escalates exponentially as you move up the food chain (research Chernobyl food chain). News flash – we are at the top of the industrial food chain and we are the ones seeing the most damage. You are blind and forced to live in a world of industrial food and medicine if you don’t realize that.

  26. Emr vendors says:

    For those of you who think you “know nutrition”, look into how modern cow feeding methods compare to their natural diet. You will find that they are being poisoned with food they can’t process without antibiotics. If you don’t think that affects you, look into how the affects on radiation escalates exponentially as you move up the food chain (research Chernobyl food chain). News flash – we are at the top of the industrial food chain.

  27. Glen Lerner says:

    Burgers themselves are usually an unhealthy source of nutrients, but this is ridiculous!

  28. stephen says:

    i read this and i still eat my MacDonald and it looks like the one from 2008 but still taste good

  29. vi bop says:

    This ammonia-treated meat derivative contains defatted beef trimmings previously only used for pet food and rendered into cooking oil prior to the development of advanced safety and processing techniques.[28] According to the New York Times, a study financed by Beef Products Inc., which makes the product they call “lean finely textured beef”,[27] from fatty beef trimmings. The product is now being utilized with USDA approval in hamburgers of the American fast-food industry, grocery stores and the federal school lunch program, as its price is substantially lower and said it saves about $1 million a year in school lunch costs. Products treated in this manner have been subject to complaints of an ‘ammonia odor’ if the percentage of ammonia is too high, leading to adjustments of the percentage of ammonia used, which may affect the efficacy of the process. According to The New York Times, information obtained from both government and industry sources call into question effectiveness claims for the treatment in the school lunch program, these records show that since 2005, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found twice in Beef Products Inc. meat, which uses the process. The records include two consecutive incidents in August 2009 where two 27,000-pound batches were found tobe contaminated. The contaminated product was removed before it could be distributed to students for consumption.[49] That article and a similar one telling the story of a young woman paralyzed from eating one single E. coli-infected ham

  30. Jason Swetland says:

    Hi Karen, would you post some updated pictures since 2008, Id really be interested in showing them to some family and friends.

  31. CAZ says:

    People need to wake up to the world, ever think of trying it yourself? I did and she’s right! I also kept and ordinary piece of bread and it’s as mouldy as ever, funny that the McDonalds bun still looks fresh!!!!! I think all of you people need to actually think about what you’re writing before you post a comment Have you tried it, Do you have proof it’s a lie?

    • Rosa says:


      Proof you say? Can I point to exhibit J which is jerky… and we should also consider exhibit B which are the breadcrumbs I’ve had in my cabinet for the past eight months. Without moisture, bread doesn’t mold, it just gets hard and stale. Without moisture, the beef patty turns into a jerkypatty. You should consider thinking before YOU post. Where did you keep the bread? Laundry room will have lots of moisture to turn that bread moldy. If you kept it sitting next to your television set, it might do just fine from the lack of water in the air.

      Gosh, didn’t they teach simple science in grade school?

      Karen, it’s appalling to me that you can make these claims, but what’s more appalling is that people actually believe you. I suppose though it’s your right to say what you please, as it is McDonalds right to sell what they please.

      God, I’m hungry. Maybe I’ll make a homemade pancake and keep it for ten years, then claim that flour, eggs, milk, baking soda, sugar and butter are toxic and deadly.

  32. Abbey says:

    WOW! That’s an old humberger right there. Anyway McDo is really passed the test of time, interesting posts.

  33. abbey says:

    That’s indeed an old hamburger rigth there, truly McDo has stood the test of time 😀 Nice post!!!

  34. Frederik says:

    Total cool’t.
    Think about how many preservative there is in a hamburger.

  35. James Smith says:

    The best way to change the world is to start by changing ourselves.
    McDonald’s “I’m loving cancer” campaign only works because we vote for it with our money. If we vote for whole organic foods instead, we win.

  36. Jenny says:

    People can think anything they like. I say it looks plenty bad. I for one prefer my fastfood fresh.
    Beside, what’s this about cloned burgers? Does anyone really want each burger to have its own flavor? They are supposed to taste the same. It is the recipe that is photocopied, not the meat.
    And protein is so a nutrient. White bread is usually enriched with vitamins. Vitamins are nutrients, too.
    Then again, I’ve heard that, for the most part, all meat and milk in the U.S. still contains synthetic steroids, passed on to the calves before they are born. What this would mean is that it is the same, if you buy meat from the grocery store butcher and cook it at home, if you buy a hamburger anywhere, if you purchase milk or cheese. There is no reason to single out McDonalds happymeals. If this is true.

  37. auspiciousbunny says:

    The last time I ate at a McDonalds or Burger King was in 1988. I ate a burger from Burger Kin on my way home from college for a weekend. I was driving from Philly to NJ. I bought a burger, probably a double cheeseburger type thing. The next thing I know I am al most blacking out in may car – seeing spots. I did not feel nauseated, just totally dizzy and hot and as if I was going to faint. I had to pull my car over at the side of the road. That was the last time I ever ate at any fast food hamburger chain,

  38. Matt L says:

    The so-called meat they use is not ground beef. It is mechanically reclaimed meat.
    look it up.

  39. finlay says:

    i love cheese burgers and fries yum yum

  40. finlay says:

    i love cheese burgers and fries yum yum

  41. Naruko says:

    That’s the power of McDonald’s SYSTEM that make them so successful in hamburger business. In reality, they are also in real estate business.

  42. qgah says:

    Disgusting I’ll never eat in any fast-food restaurant again!

  43. hahaohwow says:

    The tinfoilhattery is staggering.

  44. Darren says:

    Karen do you realise that the reason it doesn’t rot is down to the lack of moisture? I’m no fan of McDonalds, but this is a misleading way of demonstrating that it is unhealthy food. If you do a quick search you’ll find a website that did tests on mcdonalds and homemade burgers and found that moisture (or lack of it) was the primary factor in whether they would rot or not. I would post the link but I don’t think your server is letting me.

  45. Keegan says:

    Hello, may I ask, in what conditions was the burger kept? It may have already been asked, but there are WAY too many comments to look through! I decided to try this for myself. I used a McDouble, and just assumed that it wouldn’t rot either, however, after 2 weeks, it was covered in mould! Perhaps it is the difference in ingredients, but I don’t think so, as I guess the base ingredients like the bun and meat are the same. Maybe they’re made differently here in New Zealand, or it may just be the conditions in which I kept them. Thanks so much! I am doing this for my speech at school 🙂

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