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When I looked at McDonald’s YouTube video on how chicken McNuggets are made, I thought that this was a great way for the quick-service restaurant giant to be transparent and tackle misinformation head on. I don’t know much about “reality television,” but the choice of former MythBusters host Grant Imahara to be in the videos looks like a good one. Imahara comes off as a rational tech-savvy person with a fun streak, kind of a slightly younger, and maybe a tad “hipper,” version of Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe.
The McNuggets’ video is just one of a series of videos that show how McDonald’s products, including hamburger patties, McRib and fries, are made by their suppliers and prepared in their restaurants. To me, the "Our food Your questions" campaign looks like a home run, but gaining traction on the Internet isn’t easy.
Since being published on December 8, the McDonald’s new McNuggets video had around 1 million views in its first two days. A video posted in 2010 by “The Young Turks” which makes spurious claims about what goes into mechanically separated poultry and claiming that this is the primary ingredient in many chicken nugget-type products has nearly 10 million views. Combating misinformation takes a lot of time and effort, and it lets the side making what can be totally false claims set the topic of the conversation. The ideal situation would be for transparency, and the consumer education it promotes, to keep spurious claims from “going viral” in the first place.
As I said, I was really impressed when I watched the McDonald’s videos, and then I read some of the comments posted under the McDonald's videos. Apparently, there is nothing like a video about how an animal protein product is produced and prepared to bring out the activists. Animal welfare, calorie count, genetically modified organisms and preservatives in food -- at which point I stopped reading -- but there it was unedited in all its sometimes-profane glory, the vitriol of the anti-groups. But, throughout the threads, there was the occasional post from McDonald's, calmly answering real questions and even politely addressing misstatements by posters.
I was impressed by the McDonald's responses. To someone like me who doesn’t wade into social media in mass markets, it seems like a daunting task dealing with so much misinformation. I know the old saying, “a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” and McDonalds’ has taken that step. Will others in the food and animal agriculture take that first step and then persevere and keep making the journey?