Here's the 1 Really Big Difference Between McDonald's in the USA and Britain

Ah, the United States and Great Britain. The “special relationship,” as they say. We’re one people, “separated by a common language.”

Now, it turns out we’re separated by something else we have in common, too: McDonald’s.

Yes, there are differences in how the Big Mac and French fries are made and taste on this side of the Atlantic versus that one.

But, there’s also something else different that’s become clear lately.

It has to do with how McDonald’s in the U.K. unceremoniously got rid of plastic straws two months ago, acquiescing to environmentalists who pointed out just how much plastic gunky waste we create and destroy each day.

And then, McDonald’s in the U.S. considered something similar–with a very different result.

“Rightly so…”

It was hardly controversial over there, apparently. (Yes, I’m assuming you’re reading this in the U.S., so “over there” means the U.K.)

Almost everyone over there seemed cool with the idea that we should just switch to paper straws for the benefit of the environment, and be done with it.

“Straws are one of those things that people feel passionately about, and rightly so,” the McDonald’s chief executive in the U.K., Paul Pomroy, said at the time.

But remember: separated by what we have in common.

Because this week, McDonald’s in the U.S. took a look at a similar proposal.

Actually, it wasn’t even a proposal to ban straws: it was just a proposal to study what the effect might be, at some time in the future, if they did ban straws.

An activist group brought up the idea at the annual shareholder’s meeting this week, and the company put it to a vote.

It wasn’t even close: 92.35 percent of shareholders voted against it.

“Not unexpected…”

Think of it: 92 percent. That’s even better than the sham election percentage in Venezuela or Russia.

As USA Today points out, “the rejection was not unexpected” since McDonald’s had been lobbying against it here. They say they’ve already taken “major steps,” according to the article, “to cut waste and boost the company’s sustainability image.”

Okay, that’s great about the image. But McDonald’s distributes an estimated 95 million single-use straws a day, worldwide, according to SumOfUs, which is the group that made the proposal at the shareholder’s meeting.

Do a little quick math–like extrapolate that over 365 days–and it means that on average, McDonald’s goes through more than four straws a year for every single person on the planet. 

“The problem with plastic is that it never disappears,” one of the SumOfUs participants, marine biologist Elaine Leung, said at the shareholders meeting. “It breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. … [T]hey soon add up.”

Also, the Big Mac is smaller

So that’s the big difference, I guess: In the U.K., apparently, people are concerned enough about the plastics in the environment to make this change; in the U.S., McDonald’s is apparently confident that it won’t matter.

Do with that what you will. Meantime, yes, there are other differences. 

The fries–they’re floppier over there, according to a study that the British television network Channel 4 did last year. Their testers liked the U.S. version better, but backpedaled when they learned the British ones had fewer preservatives.

The Big Mac in Britain is smaller, although it tastes the same, according to the same study. Maybe just buy two if that’s an issue. 

And they hav some special sandwiches, and sauces, and stuff, that you can only get in the U.K.

Meantime, the straws. The state of California is considering banning them outright. I thought recently that plastic straws were the plastic bags of 2018. Maybe they’re the plastic bags of 2020.

Anyway, the world itself keeps getting smaller. McDonald’s in the U.S. has a CEO from the U.K. And eventually the differences will be even harder to identify.

You’ll be able to get the same shake here as you get there–you’ll just be sipping it through paper.