RFF#110 – The “Crown Cafe” on Liberty Island is a leader in menu-labelling

When I visited the Statue of Liberty a few weeks ago…

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…I was surprised to see that the “Crown Cafe” (located on Liberty Island)…

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…not only included calorie information on their menu boards…

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…but also gave a comparison of their burger in relation to other burgers…

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…and even printed the total calories and total fat of each purchase on the receipt (note: I only purchased tea and coffee, so understandably the caloric total was remarkably low)…

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But wait a minute, let’s return to that “burger comparison” for a moment, because it illustrates a concept that I’ve been trying to convince people of for years.

Notice how the the “Crown Burger” has only 515 calories and 816 mg of sodium—less than all other options. While these numbers suggest that the “Crown Burger” is the healthiest choice, I encourage you to take a closer look. “Crown Cafe” is providing its customers with a key piece of information that is essential for making a valid comparison…

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That piece of information is portion size. While the other four burgers are 5.33 oz, the “Crown Burger” is only 4 oz. Hence, part of the reason why it’s lower in calories and sodium is because it’s smaller.

In fact, when you look at the nutrient density (a standardized measure of nutrient content per standardized amount), the “Crown Burger” actually has a higher calorie density and a higher sodium density when compared to the “Fudruckers Burger”.

Here’s how the math works out:

CROWN BURGER (4 oz) – $8.95

515 calories –> 515/4 = 128.75 calories per oz

864 mg of sodium –> 864/4 = 216 mg of sodium per oz

FUDRUCKERS BURGER (5.33 oz) – $8.39

669 calories –> 669/5.33 = 125.5 calories per oz

975 mg of sodium –> 182.9 calories per oz

Considering this, the “Crown Burger” is not the best choice. By choosing the “Fudruckers Burger” you get more food, with a lower calorie and sodium density, for less money. Sure, the “Crown Burger” contains less calories overall, but whose to say you won’t get hungrier sooner and make up for those extra calories with a snack later on?

I’ve been concerned about the effect that portion size has on confusing caloric comparisons since I first began doing menu-labelling research a few years ago. Current policies that only require the labelling of calories can be deceiving if similar food options are different sizes. As a matter of fact, I was so concerned about this issue, I even did research to investigate whether including portion size information on menus would help consumers select meals with a lower calorie density. However, my research showed that including portion size information had no effect. So at this point, I’m not quite sure how to address this “niche menu-labelling” issue. Any ideas?

Long story short, I was encouraged to see that “Crown Cafe” is leading the pack by providing nutrition information to help consumers make an informed choice. If only all restaurants could do this!

 

RFF#67 – “White Castle” was the first fast-food chain in North America

Founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle changed the public’s previous view of burgers which were only sold at fairs, lunch counters and carts, and were perceived as being a low-quality food made from slaughterhouse scraps and spoiled meat. They designed their establishment so that customers could see the food being prepared. Even their name is meant to evoke a notion of cleanliness. I guess McDonald’s, which didn’t open until 1948, can thank White Castle for paving the way for their eventual hamburger success.

I learned about this fact from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/fast-food.htm

RFF #21 – The amount of salt in a McDonald’s BigMac varies depending on the country you’re in

It’s kind of interesting to think that the BigMac is consumed across the globe. Nevertheless, the BigMac you get in Canada, Greece or the UK isn’t exactly the same. As a matter of fact, when it comes to salt, there can be big differences. I took a look at the salt level in a variety of BigMacs from around the world, the countries I chose were completely random (as the name of this blog suggests). Here’s a comparison of the salt level in various countries:

Canada-2.6g

France-2.2g

Moldova-2.3g

Greece -2.3g

United Kingdom-2.1g

USA-2.4g

I didn’t check every country, but it’s quite interesting to note that of the countries I chose, Canada ranks highest.

—I learned about this fact from: http://www.mcdonaldsmenu.info/nutrition and a conversation with Elizabeth Dunford