Freakonomics: Can the McDouble save humanity?

The McDouble.

A Freakonomics fan recently wrote in with an interesting observation:

"It has been my gut-level (sorry, pun) feeling for a while now that the McDonald’s McDouble, at 390 calories, 23g (half a daily serving) of protein, 7 percent of daily fiber, 20 percent of daily calcium and iron, etc., is the cheapest, most nutritious, and bountiful food that has ever existed in human history."

Could this possibly be?

Stephen Dubner organized a debate between Mother Jones food and agriculture columnist Tom Philpott and Blake Hurst, a farmer and Missouri Farm Bureau president.

Philpott argues that although the McDouble is cheap, its price doesn’t factor in all sorts of externalities: “In order to present to us all that $2 burger, you’re talking about a vast army of working poor people, and that doesn’t even get to the farmer who grew the corn and soy."

Hurst thinks that the availability of such cheap calories is a good thing: "The biggest unreported story of the last three quarters of a century is the increase of the availability of food for the common person."

We want to know what you think:

Is the McDouble an abomination?

Or is it a modern miracle?

Comment below, tell us on Facebook, or send us a tweet @MarketplaceAPM.  

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I have also thought the same thing regarding the mcdonalds value meal. Many other commenters have missed the point - of course its unhealthy but try to find that amount of protein & calories for that price, I think it would be extremely difficult. Kudos for a great story!

People, Imagine it this way. There is a team of 20 college students stranded in the middle of the desert. They havnt eaten in 3 weeks and are on the brink of starvation. Luckily they have plenty of water. A pilot with a very small aircraft offers to airdrop food, but he can only airlift 10# and between the 2 of you, you are only able to scrounge up $20 to procur rations. Now, you're limited by weight and money... what do you send these poor kids?

where's my prev. comment?Pls get real.....I respect American culture & what McD's does'nt do to make it shine. The beef patties are not real beef....cows are not meant to eat corn residues.......grasses only. - I won't even mention GMO's. The white bun (the whiter the bread the sooner you're dead!) has no nutritional value......pls inform with facts - McD's don't care about people - especially poor people - they just want your money and control over the seed/food bank......pls fellow freakonomikers.....you have the waves - report helpful, truthful segments/news.

Agree with most commenters here. This McDouble death-crud poison is actually the MOST expensive non-food available. With the health costs of repeated consumption and the tapayer-funded subsidy offsets calculated in, the REAL 'cost' (to all of us) is likely more like $20 USD for this non-food. This is a non-argument, because the McDeathDouble IS NOT FOOD! - its just a belly-filler marketed as food and it's calorie delivery is of the very worst quality. This McDeath burger can't save humanity, only kill us with greater speed and efficiency. That Dubner can even present this as an argument/debate is absurd. Morgan Spurlock demonstrated, years ago, what this junk does to a person after repeated consumption. Time for the the clown (Ronald) to take off his makeup and stop shilling death crud. Abomination? - hell yes!, both the McDouble AND the notion that these are in any way cheap colories.

You Rock jmmc, your McComment is spot on......I cringe everytime I pass by a McD's or a KFC Death camp with sheeple inside, it hurts my soul.
Out, John'O'

We deserve a McBreak Today.

This is a NPR "Freakonomics" article

A little good natured McHumor, "with or without fries", is always welcome. LOL

Keep them coming.

Best regards


It takes an estimated 13 - 16 pounds of grain and 2,400 gallons of water to produce just ONE POUND of beef. Why not send Mr. Hurst to the store for four pounds of grain and 600 gallons of water and have him report back on just how affordable and efficient those calories from the "Quarter Pounder" really are. Factor in the antibiotics that the cows are given and the fear (of slaughter) that you ingest with the burger and it is FAR from the model food to save humanity... it is the model for everything that is wrong with humanity!

Once again, Marketplace has managed to make an important topic into something superficial and misleading. I don't know Tom Philpott, but he doesn't come close to arguing effectively against the ridiculous and deceptive claim that a McDouble is good nutrition for a cheap price. Apart from all the problems with industrial livestock farming--from its inhumane and unsanitary conditions to the overuse of antibiotics and dependence on monocultural growing practices to supply the grain for livestock, crowding out a range of vegetables--the McDouble is woefully short on good nutrition. In fact, it's one of the reasons so many people are obese, diabetic and so on. If the hungry of the world depended on this food, they'd be malnourished and sick. The McDouble has nothing going for it but more animal protein than we need and a small amount of onion (the best feature of the sandwich). It contains a whopping 19 g of fat, 8 g of it saturated, 1 g of transfat (why are we still seeing that?), 890 mg of sodium and 7 g of sugar. What's more, the processed grain bun gets turned into simple sugar almost immediately after ingestion. In short, it's all that we should abhor about fast food--excessive salt, fat and animal protein from a farming practice that is unsustainable and unhealthy, and a meal that will contribute to the very conditions this country has at epidemic levels.

As for the price, it's largely due to buying in quantity the products that are stupidly subsidized by our government to support unhealthy farming practices and prop up agribusiness. If you think you're getting a good meal for this price, you're sadly mistaken.

But all this goes right over the heads of your reporters, unfortunately. To be blunt, I'm tired of the smarmy Kai Ryssdal conducting these superficial interviews as if he can't wait to get away from anything serious or deep. He addresses the guests as "dude," as if they're just a couple of bros downing some brews while they chat about nothing. That's kind of obnoxious. I don't mind a little casual tone from time to time, but let's try to get into the subject with a little substance and lot less lol breeziness.


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