Everyone is familiar with McDonald’s. The Golden Arches, the Big Mac, the Happy Meals … they’re the stuff of fond childhood memories and guilty pleasures well into adulthood. Because, let’s be honest: sometimes, you just get a craving for a Big Mac and some fries, and there’s absolutely nothing that can satisfy it but the real thing. (Although, this copycat Big Mac recipe is almost better than the real thing, and this McDonald’s fries recipe is the stuff of salty dreams.)
Founded in 1940 by Richard and Maurice McDonald (otherwise known as Dick and Mac), it took an entrepreneur named Ray Kroc and a ton of drama to catapult McDonald’s to the global fame they have today. According to McDonald’s official history, Kroc bought out the brothers in 1961 for a cool $2.7 million — adjusted for inflation, that’s about $23 million in today’s money. That’s a lot of money, but considering Statista says the McDonald’s brand was worth over $129 billion in 2020, it’s safe to say that was a good investment.
So, we know McDonald’s is massive, and we know you’ve been there dozens of times. But … what don’t you know about McDonald’s? It probably doesn’t surprise you that a company this big has a ton of weird stories they try to keep quiet, so this is the untold truth of McDonald’s.
McDonald’s once recalled a million McNuggets
While customers Stateside might not have heard about it, McDonald’s Japan had some major issues in 2014 and 2015 — issues so big and so gross that Mother Jones reported they led to a 10 percent sales decline.
It started in July 2014, when McDonald’s stepped in to take some serious action against one of their chicken suppliers, Shanghai Husi Food Co. Rumor had it that the factory was mixing expired product in with the fresh stuff then shipping it to McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Burger King in Japan and China— and that’s just gross. Just a month later, a customer in Osaka found a piece of a human tooth in their fries, and it doesn’t need to be said just how big a deal that was.
Then, in early 2015, there were several reports of customers finding pieces of plastic and vinyl in their Chicken McNuggets, leading to the recall of one million of the bite-sized chicken chunks. Their supplier, Cargill, investigated, and came to the conclusion that the contamination didn’t happen in their factory. So where did it come from? We may never know… but it was there.
The McDonald’s Big Mac isn’t trademarked in Europe
Let’s say you’re opening a restaurant in New York, and you want to call one of your burgers the Big Mac. How well do you think that would work out for you? Now, if you were to open it in Spain? You’d be fine!
That’s because McDonald’s actually lost the trademark to the Big Mac in the European Union after a decision by the EU Intellectual Property Office (via Reuters), and this is how it happened.
The Guardian says that it was in the 1960s that Pat McDonagh was given the nickname "Supermac" during a football match in Ireland’s County Westmeath. Later, McDonagh went on to open a massively successful burger chain, and he called it Supermac’s. When he tried to open locations outside of Ireland, McDonald’s claimed "Supermac" was too close to "Big Mac" and would lead to brand confusion. But the EUIPO ruled in favor of Supermac’s, and it was a huge deal — it didn’t just mean the Irish chain could expand into other countries in the EU, it also meant that the "Big Mac" trademark was void.
And that’s huge, especially considering the number of McLawsuits McDonald’s has previously filed and won. They even prevented a dentist from opening a practice called "McDental," and a Singapore coffee from getting the trademark "MACCOFFEE." Now, a different precedent has been set.