Studying the Culture of Corporations

Sun, 17 Sep 1995 12:15:28 -0400

For the amusement of fellow anthropologists I have inclosed a snippet of a
message forwarded to me by a firend. Notice the creative way members of this
culture reply to statements of fact.
A Year of Great McQuotes from the Witness Box
>McDonald's witnesses have often said ridiculous things in the
>witness box in a vain attempt to conceal the truth or justify the
>way McDonald's operates and the effect those operations have in
>this country and around the world. Here is just a small
>The Defendants asked Dr Sydney Arnott (McDonald's expert on
>cancer) his opinion of the following statement: "A diet high in
>fat, sugar, animal products and salt and low in fibre, vitamins
>and minerals is linked with cancer of the breast and bowel and
>heart disease". He replied: "If it is being directed to the
>public then I would say it is a very reasonable thing to say."
>The court was then informed that the statement was an extract from
>the London Greenpeace Factsheet. This section had been
>characterised by McDonald's lawyer at pre-trial hearings as the
>central and most "defamatory" allegation, which if proven would be
>the "kiss of death" for a fast-food company like McDonald's. On
>the strength of the supposed scientific complexities surrounding
>this issue the Defendants had been denied their right to a jury.
>David Green, Senior Vice-President of Marketing (USA), stated
>'McDonald's food is nutritious' and 'healthy'. When asked what
>the company meant by 'nutritious' he said: 'provides nutrients and
>can be a part of a healthy balanced diet'. He admitted this could
>also apply to a packet of sweets [candy]. When asked if Coca Cola
>is 'nutritious' he replied that it is 'providing water, and I
>think that is part of a balanced diet'. He agreed that by his
>definition Coke is nutritious.
>When asked to define 'junk food', Professor Wheelock (McDonald's
>consultant on nutrition) said it was 'whatever a person doesn't
>like' (in his case semolina). With disbelief mounting in the
>courtroom, Richard Rampton (McDonald's QC) intervened to say that
>McDonald's was not objecting to the description of their food as
>'junk food'!
>Peter Cox, (a Defence marketing expert) quoted from 'Behind the
>Arches', a book authorised by McDonald's in 1987, as evidence that
>McDonald's were engaged in 'a strategy of subversion' by trying to
>alter the dietary preferences of whole nations, 'very often for
>the worse'. The book states that, in Japan, McDonald's faced "a
>fundamental challenge of establishing beef as a common food".
>Their President, Den Fujita, said "the reason Japanese people are
>so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing
>but fish and rice for two thousand years"; "if we eat McDonald's
>hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become
>taller, our skin become white and our hair blonde".
>McDonald's began a major advertising campaign in the USA in 1987
>which aimed "to neutralise the junk food misconceptions about
>McDonald's good food". An internal company memo, reporting on a
>high level meeting in March 1986 with public relations advisors
>prior to the advertising campaign, was read out in court. It
>states "McDonald's should attempt to deflect the basic negative
>thrust of our critics.....How do we do this? By talking
>'moderation and balance'. We can't really address or defend
>nutrition. We don't sell nutrition and people don't come to
>McDonald's for nutrition".
>The Effects of Advertising
>Incredibly, Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) claimed that
>the character Ronald McDonald is intended not to "sell food" to
>children, but to promote the "McDonald's experience". But an
>extract from the corporation's official and confidential
>'Operations Manual' was read out: "Ronald loves McDonald's and
>McDonald's food. And so do children, because they love Ronald.
>Remember, children exert a phenomenal influence when it comes to
>restaurant selection. This means you should do everything you can
>to appeal to children's love for Ronald and McDonald's."
>McDonald's annual advertising and promotions budget is $1.4
>billion. It was revealed in court that Geoffrey Guiliano, a
>Ronald McDonald actor in the 1980's, had quit and publicly
>apologised, stating "I brainwashed youngsters into doing wrong. I
>want to say sorry to children everywhere for selling out to
>concerns who make millions by murdering animals".
>The Effects of Packaging on the Environment
>McDonald's distributed 'McFact' cards nationwide for several years
>publicising a scheme to recycle polystyrene waste from stores in
>Nottingham, where customers were asked to put polystyrene
>packaging into a separate bin, "for recycling into such things as
>plant pots and coat hangers". Ed Oakley (Chief Purchasing Officer
>for McDonald's UK) admitted that the company had not recycled any
>of the waste and in fact the polystyrene was "dumped".
>Paul Preston, McDonald's UK President, said that if one million
>customers each bought a soft drink, he would not expect more than
>150 cups to end up as litter. Photographs were then put to him,
>showing 27 pieces of McDonald's litter in one stretch of pavement
>alone (the company has over 600 stores in the UK and serves over a
>million customers each day).
>In some countries the company has abandoned or limited the use of
>polystyrene packaging, in part because it is not biodegradable and
>takes up a lot of space in landfill sites. Ed Oakley (McDonald's
>UK) stated that there is "no landfill problem in the UK".
>Questioned as to whether he believes that "as long as there is
>room in the dumps, there is no problem with dumping lots of
>McDonald's waste in the ground?" Mr Oakley said "and everybody
>else's waste, yes, that is true". He said "I can see [the dumping
>of waste] to be a benefit, otherwise you will end up with lots of
>vast, empty gravel pits all over the country." Asked if he was
>"asserting it is an environmental benefit to dump waste in
>landfill sites" he stated "It could be"...."yes, it is certainly
>not a problem".
>Destruction of Rainforests
>Internal company documents, mistakenly disclosed to the
>Defendants, were read to the court in which McDonald's admitted
>the purchase in the UK in 1983/4 of beef imported from Brazil, a
>rainforest country. A letter from the McDonald's Corporation to a
>member of the public in the UK in 1982 stated "we can assure you
>that the only Brazilian beef used by McDonald's is that purchased
>by the six stores located in Brazil itself". Ed Oakley (Chief
>Purchasing Officer for McDonald's UK) denied that the purchase of
>Brazilian beef for use in the UK was in breach of McDonald's
>policy of not using beef which originated outside the European
>Union, saying "No, it was not. We still bought the hamburgers
>locally. We did not buy the ingredients locally".
>David Walker (the Chairman of McKey Foods, the sole supplier of
>McDonald's UK hamburgers) admitted that he had personally
>organised the direct import of the consignments of Brazilian beef
>for McDonald's UK stores in 1983/4. A letter from Mr Walker at
>the time was quoted in court. It revealed that the imports were a
>matter of great controversy. The letter stated that Prince
>Philip, the President of the World Wildlife Fund, had recently met
>George Cohon, President of McDonald's Canada, and had said: " 'So
>you are the people who are tearing down the Brazilian rainforests
>and breeding cattle' to which the reply was: 'I think you are
>mistaken', whereupon HRH said 'Rubbish' and stormed away".
>Following this, the letter stated that Fred Turner, the Chairman
>of the McDonald's Corporation, "issued a worldwide edict that no
>McDonald's plant was to use Brazilian beef". The same letter
>revealed that McDonald's UK had given Walker permission to use the
>Brazilian beef imports.
>McDonald's claim that they only use US-produced beef in the USA.
>However, during the Trial an extract from the TV documentary
>'Jungleburger' was shown, in which McDonald's beef suppliers in
>Costa Rica stated that they also supplied beef for use by
>McDonald's in the USA.
>Employees and Trade Unions
>Robert Beavers (Senior Vice-President of the US Corporation)
>agreed that in the early 70's, when trade unions were trying to
>organise in McDonald's in the US, the company set up a "flying
>squad" of experienced managers who were despatched to a store the
>same day that word came in of an attempt by workers to unionise
>it. Unions made no headway.
>Sid Nicholson, McDonald's UK Vice President, admitted that
>McDonald's set their starting rates for crew employees for most of
>the country "consistently either exactly the same as the minimum
>rates of pay set by the Wages Council or just a few pence over
>them". He agreed that for crew aged 21 or over the company
>"couldn't actually pay any lower wages without falling foul of the
>law". However, he said "I do not accept that McDonald's crew are
>low paid".
>Mr Nicholson said the company was not anti-union and all staff had
>a right to join one. Under questioning he admitted that any
>McDonald's workers interested in union membership "would not be
>allowed to collect subscriptions...put up notices...pass out any
> organise a meeting for staff to discuss conditions
>at the store on the premises...or to inform the union about
>conditions inside the stores" (which would be deemed 'Gross
>Misconduct' and as such a 'summary sackable offence'). In fact,
>Mr Nicholson agreed, "they would not be allowed to carry out any
>overt union activity on McDonald's premises".
>Jill Barnes, McDonald's UK Hygiene and Safety Officer, was
>challenged over a previously confidential internal report into the
>death by electrocution of Mark Hopkins in a Manchester store on
>October 12th 1992. It had catalogued a number of company failures
>and problems, and had made the damning conclusion: "Safety is not
>seen as being important at store level". In addition, a Health &
>Safety Executive report of 1992 concluded: "the application of
>McDonald's hustle policy [ie. getting staff to work at speed] in
>many restaurants was, in effect, putting the service of the
>customer before the safety of employees".
>Animal Welfare
>Dr Neville Gregory (McDonald's expert witness) said McDonald's egg
>suppliers keep chickens in battery cages, 5 chickens to a cage
>with less than the size of an A4 sheet of paper per bird and with
>no freedom of movement and no access to fresh air or sunshine. Ed
>Oakley of McDonald's said the company had thought about switching
>to free range eggs, but, not only are battery eggs "50% cheaper",
>but, he claimed "hens kept in batteries are better cared for". He
>said he thinks battery cages are "pretty comfortable"!
>Ed Oakley (Chief Purchasing Officer for McDonald's UK) claimed
>that the company "had a very real feeling that animals should be
>kept and slaughtered in the most humane way possible" and so had
>published an animal welfare statement two years ago. When
>questioned about this so-called policy Mr Oakley admitted that the
>"animal welfare policy is, in fact, just a policy to comply with
>the laws of the various countries in which McDonald's operate",
>and added "we do not go beyond what the law stipulates".
>Food Safety
>A UK 'McFact' card states: "every consignment of beef arriving at
>the [McKeys] meat plant is subject to a total of 36 quality
>control checks, carried out by a team of qualified technologists.
>If a consignment should fail on any one check, it will be rejected
>by McDonald's." All the raw beef consignments are
>microbiologically tested, and categorised as 'satisfactory',
>'passable', and 'unsatisfactory'. David Walker (Chairman of
>McKeys, the sole supplier of the company's UK hamburgers) stated
>that 'unsatisfactory' relates to beef which has a total colony of
>more than 10 million bacteria per gram. He then admitted that
>such consignments are, in fact, not rejected and are used for
>McDonald's burgers.

(I have deleted the call for contributions because this is a cultural
exercise not a political one. If you are interested in getting involved
politically or want to study this cultural phenomena further I include the
following info).

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