Positive Societal Consequences McDonald’s?


To examine McDonald’s value for consumers, my paper will apply the ethical consideration of consequentialism to their business practice. This should be done because McDonald’s operations falls between two categories of consequentialism. On one side, the consequence of McDonald’s operation is obesity, increased meat consumption, and results of those two such as heart disease. On the other side, McDonald’s supplies food for people and therefore creates happiness. There is a clear controversy over the ethics of their public offering, but is the consequence of their a net positive or negative for society?

In my paper, a main citation that will help define consequentialism will be Brad Hooker on “Rule-Consequentialism” which disusses the ethical difference between a consequence that is best for individual people, a consequence that best fulfills people’s desires, and a consequence that is best for all people rather than any individual. He states, “Some desires seem to be things too unconnected with you for them to play a direct role in determining your good.” The problem here clearly stems from a discrepancy between pleasure in the short term and long term health.

The problem with the food McDonald’s sells and promotes is the health related problems that stem from continuous consumption. These health problems occur because of a “race to the bottom” mentality that permeates the industry, attempting to produce food as cheaply as possible while maintaining a sweet flavor without regard to the health impact. The consequence of this is a generation of children and adults that have increased their risk for obesity-related health problems that incur a heavy toll on insurance. From this perspective, McDonald’s should alter its product line considerably to promote a healthy diet, though this may lose them a large quantity of core customers.

On the other hand, the food McDonald’s sells is artificially flavored to create a pleasurable experience and the locations are often designed to be “fun”, targeting a younger age group with a sweet tooth. By providing pleasure for their consumers at an affordable cost, McDonald’s has achieved a desirable consequence for their actions. The people who choose to eat the food are satisfied and the company plays a needed role in society. From this perspective, the consequences of their operations are positive for consumers. So is McDonald’s beneficial for society or not?

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7 responses to “Positive Societal Consequences McDonald’s?

  1. I think the ethical debate here is much bigger than just McDonald’s. As we saw in Food Inc., the cheap food provided by fast food restaurants sometimes is the best, only and most affordable option for impoverished families. Should the onus should fall on the FDA to regulate and educate about health impacts? If an organization is in compliance with governmental regulation, is there really an ethical violation?

    This is a fascinating topic and I’m looking forward to hearing more!

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  2. You have a lot of rich information to work with on this topic. I think it would be interesting to focus not only on an organizational level, but also to analyze the industry-wide and societal implications of McDonald’s business strategy.

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  3. I think consequentialism is a good ethical theory theory for you to focus on. It is less about the individual choices of McDonald’s being the best fast food company they could be, for example from a virtue ethics approach, but rather to overall outcomes of what they are going. They are providing at least short-term happiness to people by providing them cheap food, but does this happiness last over time with all of the health issues associated with McDonald’s food?

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  4. I also think this will be a great paper! As I was reading this, I began to wonder if consumers truly are receiving a pleasurable experience or if they are settling for food that tastes ok and fits in their budget. Is McDonald’s offering the best meal or just the biggest meal that caters to those with strict budget requirements? What are the moral implications of this?

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  5. This will be a very good paper and is one that I am likely to read when it is posted. I think that it was in the Food Inc. video that it talked about the correlation between poverty and obesity. I think that will be interesting to look into as McDonald’s prices appeal to the low-income populations.

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  6. I think you could even extend the consequentialist lens a bit further. As a massive chain organization, they provide tons of entry-level jobs to those who need them most, and from what I can tell tend to provide them chances to rise in the ranks to store management relatively easily. I would also check out Ronald McDonald House, because I know they have a huge philanthropic presence. Perhaps all the profit they attain from deteriorating the health of their customers goes towards the greater good. It would be interesting to analyze this idea in terms of both consequentialism and deontology.

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  7. I think the fast food industry is a tough but interesting topic to debate. Like I commented prior, there is no one technically forcing people to eat at these establishments. They know they are not getting the most healthy products, but they either do not care or cannot afford anything else.

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