The winter’s night sky was clear, one of those where you can’t see just stars but the galaxies they make up. The snow hid the ground’s flaws – the potholes, the sewers, the frozen dead squirrels. I took a breath as fresh as fresh air can be, and turned to my wife and said:

“Ah as fresh as a store cut slice of Arby’s roast beef.”

[insert record scratch]

Now, I’ve consumed my fair share of Arby’s roast beefs over the years, so don’t think I’m above them. But nothing about their paper-thin slices of beef makes me think of freshness. Have you ever held up a slice? The anemic piece of meet shaved off of some poor feedlot cow is nearly see-through.

Yet their most recent ad campaign plays up that their roast beef is sliced in their restaurant and Subway’s (a brand that markets itself already as a healthy, fresh option) has their cold cuts sliced in a factory.

Never mind the journey that the beef was on before it was sliced, that the cow was pumped full of steroids and hormones so it would grow as quickly as possible and that it was force fed antibiotics because it lived in a world of cow shit. Never mind that an employee at an Arby’s Michigan operating one of those in-restaurant meat slicers sliced off part of her finger and a fourteen-year-old boy found it when he bit into the missing digit in his sandwich.

The boy, Ryan Hart, stopped chewing and was all like: “That has to be a finger.”

Fingers have also been found in TGI Friday’s food in Indiana, and last year in a frozen yogurt in North Carolina. I’m all for leaving the slicing and dicing to the professionals at the meat slicing factories.

The main reason I point out the absurdity of Arby’s ad campaign is that it shows just how dumb food marketers think we are. One of the things that continues to fascinate me about the global food industry is the gap between marketing and reality. And unlike that ill-advised vacuum purchase you made based on the fancy commercial where you thought, “Look how that thing takes turns!” we eat food. We can’t live without food. It gives us sustenance, but it can also make us sick and slowly kills us.

Food ads are the new tobacco ads. Where are you eating?

Have any fast food nightmares to share?

Petra says:

But if people keep buying Arby’s, then I would posit that the marketers are, in fact, correct–“we” ( the generalized collective “we”, not necessarily those reading this blog post) ARE dumb. Or, perhaps, just succumbing to the convenience of fast food, even though we know where our food comes from and how “fresh” it actually is.

Becki says:

No disgusting fast food nightmares to share, just an experience that kept me from ever going back to that chain again. When I was in grad school, I lived on mostly meatless meals because I was broke, and would occasionally treat myself to something with meat to break up the monotony. A slice of deep-dish pizza was my usual treat, but one day I decided to give the Taco Bell restaurant a try. Mistake. I took one bite of that taco, and their special blend of spices very nearly made me lose my lunch (taste and smell). Don’t get me wrong, I use the packaged “taco seasoning” mix packets in a grocery store quite happily, and I’m under no illusion that they are all that authentic. But I’ve never stepped foot in Taco Bell since that day in 1994.

I agree with Petra, the collective “we” forgets a great deal just for the convenience of having food available when and where we want it. Please don’t make us think about what we put in our mouths! (jk)

While food safety was paramount in the minds of many consumers, several chains met demands for healthier options on the menu. Throughout the year, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, Burger King, Fatburger and Arby’s all announced the switch to trans-fat-free cooking oil. McDonald’s unveiled plans to use its new oil in all of its 13,700 U.S. restaurants by early 2008. Subway rolled out its Fresh Fit meals in March, incorporating items such as sliced apples, raisins and low-fat milk. And Burger King announced it was restricting advertising to children and would offer Fresh Apple Fries, red apples sliced to resemble real fries served in a Frypod.

Let your voice be heard!