It’s no secret that fast food— especially from a huge chain like McDonald’s— isn’t exactly an artisanal, hand-crafted affair. Historically, there have been a few, shall we say, “magic ingredients” that helped make burgers from McDonald’s and elsewhere palatable for longer periods of time than what you’d grill at home. And while McD’s announced last year that it would remove artificial preservatives, ample evidence from older burgers suggest that additive has historically worked a little too well.
Recently, the last McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries sold in Iceland turned ten years old. Purchased by Hjortur Smarason right as the chain was exiting the country during its 2009 financial crisis, hundreds of thousands of daily live stream viewers have watched as this burger has withstood the test of time, surviving an Eyjafjallajökull eruption and a presidential scandal about pineapple pizza while hardly appearing to have aged a day.
“I had heard something about McDonald’s never decaying so I just wanted to find out for myself whether this was true or not,” Smarason explained of his experiment when he gave it to the National Museum of Iceland, where the burger sat for some time beginning in 2012. Things looked so good that museum staff allege that guests ate years-old fries before the meal was moved to its present home in the Snotra House hostel.
The crazy part is that Iceland isn’t even home to the oldest petrified McDonald’s burger. As was recently revealed by Australia’s 7 News, Adelaide friends Casey Dean and Eduard Nitz claim to have been holding onto a Quarter Pounder from “Macca’s” that dates all the way back to 1995. Nitz asked Dean to hold onto his unfinished burger until he could come back to get it, only it hasn’t really happened for nearly TWENTY FIVE YEARS.
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Just like in Iceland, this McDonald’s burger that’s nearly old enough to rent a car on its own still looks like it could’ve been ordered yesterday. “There isn’t a speck of mold on it,” Nitz told 7 News. “All that’s happened is that it’s shrunk a bit in size and dried up,” he says, adding that there’s no foul odor, either.
With those preservatives now stripped from McDonald’s burgers, would a Quarter Pounder ordered today last even a week before turning rancid? How long could a Beyond or Impossible burger survive out in the open before you’d have to fumigate your apartment? It may be a long (or short) time before we have the answer to these questions. But next time you’re thinking of throwing out that burger you didn’t finish, it might just be worth holding onto for a bit.