Claims about McDonald's hit the Truth-O-Meter

Fast food workers plan to strike again Sept. 4, 2014, over McDonald's wages. Critics point to better treatment among McDonald's workers in Denmark. (AP)
Fast food workers plan to strike again Sept. 4, 2014, over McDonald's wages. Critics point to better treatment among McDonald's workers in Denmark. (AP)

As American fast food workers prepare to strike Thursday in their push for a $15 an hour wage, provocative claims about the highest-grossing fast food chain in the world soared around social media.

Readers wanted to know if claims about McDonald’s were true, so we took a look.

It’s good to work for McDonald’s -- in Denmark

The Other 98%, a liberal advocacy group, posted a meme on Facebook  that showed two people in McDonald’s uniforms looking utterly astonished. In headline type were the words, "McDonald’s workers in Denmark have a union. Earn $45,000/year."

There’s no doubt the burger flippers in the land of Hans Christian Andersen have a union. A Danish labor economist sent us a copy of the latest contract with McDonald’s. The part about earning $45,000 a year is a little dicier.

The issue is that a huge fraction of the McDonald’s workforce in Denmark work part-time. So the hourly rate is high, close to $21 an hour, but you would need to work full-time to turn that into $45,000 year. Some of them do. The pay checks for the rest the McWorkers is less clear, and the hard data doesn’t seem to be public. But government data for fast food workers across all companies showed an annual pay rate of about $41,000. Overall, the economists we reached thought the figure was reasonable if not perfectly accurate.

Even after accounting for the higher taxes and higher cost of living in Denmark, the McDonald’s workers come out ahead. We rated the claim Mostly True.

The return of pink slime

We noticed a meme on Facebook that made unsavory, and outdated, claims about McDonald’s.

One version says, "McDonald’s hamburgers are only 15 percent ‘real beef.’ The other 85 percent is meat filler cleansed with ammonia, which causes stomach and intestinal cancer."

McDonald’s acknowledges it previously used "lean, finely textured beef treated with ammonia" but phased it out of its supply but 2011.

"While select lean beef trimmings are safe, we decided to stop using the product to align our global standards for beef around the world," the company says in a FAQ section about its meats.

As for what exactly is in the patties, McDonald’s writes, "Our burgers in the US are made using only 100% USDA-inspected beef. There are no preservatives, no fillers, no extenders and no so-called ‘pink slime’ in our beef. The only thing added to our burgers is a bit of salt and pepper during grilling."

Further, we found no evidence that this kind of meat is linked to cancer.

We rated the meme’s claim Pants on Fire!