And Finally Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #94: Alex James v Small bakeries

By | Published on Friday 20 January 2012

Alex James

You might think of Alex James as that guy from Blur who was taller than the others, or maybe the farmer who hangs around with David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson, but for me he’s The Sun’s food critic. He makes cheese, ergo he knows about food. Cheese is food, after all.

This week, he wrote a lengthy piece looking at the food manufacturing processes of Greggs, McDonald’s, and KFC, spending a day with each company to really understand how they go about producing such vast quantities of cheap food. It’s the sort of investigative journalism we’re all crying out for. And what did he discover? Well, on behalf of the British people, he discovered that all three of them are absolutely brilliant.

Helpfully, he pointed out: “Yes, big business can be a bad thing, but only if it’s bad”.

That’s that cleared up then. In the case of McDonald’s, he pulled out many of the statistics people who are anti-McDonald’s use to knock the company, though viewed them in a wholly positive light. Though, in the case of Greggs, he was impressed by simpler things.

“[Greggs is] British and based in Newcastle, so it doesn’t feel threatening or as if Americans are telling us what to eat”, he said, forgetting that he was also about to write about McDonald’s and KFC. “The little bakery in my local village offers goods too sweet and sugary and is massively over-priced. I can think of much worse things than a Greggs opening up there”.

I hope he never needs a loaf of bread in a hurry again. Over at the McDonald’s factory which makes “THREE MILLION burgers a day … and processes 380,000 cattle a year”, he set the scene, saying: “The overwhelming thing is the stench. When you go to the docks it smells of fish. This was the same but with an overpowering smell of beef – a beefy docks”.

However, “backstage” at a McDonald’s restaurant was a different matter. “There’s some fantastic gear there and in some ways it’s very similar to a Michelin-starred restaurant”, he enthused. “When it’s busy in a Michelin kitchen, all the chefs are doing is putting pre-prepared parts of a meal together, which is essentially the same as McDonald’s”.

Yep, almost identical. But surely there’s the matter of health? Don’t worry, Alex is on it. He spoke to the British Nutrition Foundation, who pointed out that McDonald’s food “doesn’t satisfy your appetite, so you eat more … [and] is also lacking in fibre”. As well as that “the BNF said it should only be eaten ‘occasionally'”.

How often is “occasionally”, Alex? “They couldn’t tell me what ‘occasionally’ meant, but we all know it means less than once a week”. Cool, thanks.

He had less to say about KFC, but did describe being “up to my elbows in a big tub of the Colonel’s ‘secret recipe'”, adding that the concoction isn’t actually that difficult to make. “Now I’ve seen how it works I’m going to try Kentucky Fried grouse at home this weekend”, he squealed.

You can read the full piece here, and check out The Quietus’ amazing deconstruction of it here. Also, The Daily Mash points out that much of James’ article is written in the style of an excited nine year old.