Is a McDonald’s Happy Meal Really That Bad for your Kids?

McDonald's Field to Restaurant Tour 2015By Alyssa Green

Don’t tell any of my health-conscious mom peers, but my kids eat at McDonald’s once in a while. To be honest, they are actually pretty familiar with the McDonald’s drive-thru. And I’ve felt guilty about every single visit. Why? Because I’ve made some assumptions about McDonalds’ food and practices that quite frankly aren’t true. This is what I learned on a recent McDonald’s Field to Restaurant tour here in the Sacramento Valley.

On a recent warm, August Friday morning, I joined a bus full of professionals on a tour of three local farms and factories that supply food to McDonald’s. I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned – where they source their food from, their quality standards and their business practices.

The first stop on the tour was Primavera Marketing, Inc. and Primafrutta Packing Inc., a company that farms and packages cherries, apples and walnuts. If you live on the west coast, chances are Primavera’s Gala and Granny Smith apples will end up in your child’s McDonald’s Happy Meal. Primavera, owned and operated by Italian immigrant Alex Sambado and his two sons, is located in Lindon, Ca. approximately 50 miles from Sacramento. The orchards are gorgeous and the apples delicious (we got to taste them straight from the tree.) I was truly impressed with the down-to-earth, yet professional Sambado Family, the quality of the fruit produced and the cleanliness of the facilities. So impressed was I, that I will now be exclusively searching for their products in stores – and they shouldn’t be hard to find. Besides McDonald’s, their produce can also be found at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Safeway and other various area supermarkets.

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Our next stop wasn’t quite as pleasant as the apple orchards – but only because of the nature of the business. Kruger Foods supplies McDonald’s with much of the pickles and relish used in their meals. Located in Stockton, this family owned and operated company grows some of their produce on site, and sources 85 percent of the rest of the crops needed within 90 minutes of their plant.

Kruger Foods produces condiments such as pickles, pickle relish, peppers, mayonnaise and dressings – all of which taste great on a burger, but are quite potent to the senses when one is inside a large facility that produces these products in bulk. Just imagine the scene. Hundreds of thousands of pickles being sliced, diced and bottled with ingredients like onions and garlic. Just being inside the factory for a short time inspired me to want to stand up and applaud with great gusto, all who work there each day. Bless these hard workers for providing you and me with a bit of “oomph” on our cheeseburgers.

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The final stop of the day was to Aryzta Bakery, also located in Stockton. Have you ever wondered where McDonald’s gets their hamburger buns from? Where do they travel from? Are they the least bit fresh by the time they meet up with your burger patty? Well, I had these same questions and was delighted with the answers.

I learned that Aryzta is one of the largest bakery companies in the world, with 21 bakeries in North America alone. They make artisan breads, sweet baked goods, pizza, tarts and pies. The Stockton facility supplies hamburger buns and English muffins to 575 McDonald’s restaurants in Northern California and Western Nevada. I learned that the buns and muffins are carefully baked, cooled and packaged in a clean and well-run factory. While they are frozen, they aren’t in the freezer for very long. The average time between when the buns come out of the oven to when you are sinking your teeth into them is four to five days.

One surprising fact I learned about Aryzta is that the company is dedicated to minimizing its use of natural resources and impact on the environment. To date, ten of its factories, including the Stockton location, have achieved the goal of zero waste to our landfills.

After a full day of touring farms, fields, factories and plants, and speaking with representatives from each location as well as McDonald’s, I rightfully lost my sense of guilt over my kids eating at McDonald’s every now and then. The food is fresher and more nutritious than I imagined, McDonald’s standards and practices are more admirable than I dared hope, and the company itself has a greater positive economic impact on our community than I was aware of. So, go ahead. Buy your kid a Happy Meal once in a while. And lose the guilt.

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Did you know?

  • McDonald’s purchased $241,554,930.00 in food and supplies from California in 2014.
  • There are 31 independently owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants in Sacramento, generating $40 million in economic activity.
  • Sacramento franchises donate $50,000 a year to the Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholarship program.

To learn more about where McDonald’s sources their food from, take a look at these blog posts:

Cookies & Clogs:

Mama Harris’ Kitchen:

Bay Area Mommy:


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