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Are McDonald's French Fries Vegan?

Posted by Aaron Seminoff on

Most vegans may not think of McDonald's as their first choice for dining. However, if you should find yourself in a situation where it is unavoidable, then you may wonder what you can eat from their menu. There is not much that can be consumed by a vegan at this establishment.

They do not even offer a veggie burger in the United States, although they do in their London stores. The options are severely limited, and you might wish you had packed a sandwich.

The French fries seems like a safe bet though, right? Unfortunately, even the fries are not vegan. How can a French fry fail to be vegan when it is just a slice of potato? It is the frying process that changes everything. 

Why One Little Additive Changes Everything

As a vegan, you might feel safe eating French fries. It is kind of hard to mess up a potato, after all. Are McDonald’s fries vegan? Well, the answer can be found by going straight to their website.

They have a disclaimer that states that none of the items on their website are vegetarian or vegan. The spud is not the problem. Instead, it is the oil in which they are fried that is creating the issue. 

McDonald's uses natural beef- flavored enhanced oil. This oil gives the fries their unique taste. So, because the fries are enhanced with an animal product, they cannot be considered vegan.

Additionally, the oil contains hydrolyzed milk, which is used as a starting ingredient. The restaurant chain's website statement almost seems as if they are shifting the blame to the suppliers. Do they have any control over what is being put into their French fries?

are mcdonald's fries vegan

Those who do not observe a vegan lifestyle may think that McDonald's is only a fast food restaurant. Why should this corporation even cater to those who want alternative food choices? The shocking thing is that on PETA's website, most of McDonald’s competitors do offer vegan French fries. Restaurant chains like Carl’s Jr, Burger King, Wendy’s, White Castle are just a few.

So, it is not that McDonald's cannot offer vegan items. They must not want to put money into it. Their corporate leaders fail to realize that it is 2017, and they need to provide healthier options.

The year 2015 was devastating for McDonald's. It was the first time that they closed more stores than they opened. The burger giant closed over 700 stores that year alone due to declining sales.

Contrast that with a restaurant like Chipotle. They offer more options than McDonald's, and their profits are soaring. Why is McDonald's so behind the times? 

The Infamous Russet Burbank Spud

To understand why McDonald's French fries are not vegan requires a bit of knowledge about the specific potato they use. According to food editor Michael Pollen, the Russet Burbank potato is a very expensive spud to grow. It requires a great deal of water, fertilizer, and pesticides to yield a significant crop.

You know those potatoes that have the brown lines that go through them or a few imperfections? McDonald's will not use them. In fact, the only way to eliminate those unsightly blemishes is a pesticide called Monitor. This dangerous pesticide can potentially cause brain damage and cancer in humans.

Sure, they want the long, thin potato that gives them their classic fry shape, but even Idaho farmers cannot go into the fields for at least five days after they spray. So, why would you want to eat these fries--whether you are vegan or not? 

Harvest Off-Gas Process

After harvest, McDonald's suppliers put their potatoes into a shed that is the size of a football stadium. The spuds must gradually release all the chemicals that were used during the growing process. This is called off-gassing. It takes six weeks to complete the process.

As if the pesticides were not dangerous enough, they add potentially harmful preservatives to the potatoes. TBHQ or tert-butyl hydroquinone is a petroleum-based agent that is used for preservation. If you have ever dropped a McDonald's French fry in your car and found it a long time later, you will notice that it still looks almost the same. The chemicals they use for preservatives affect the product.

McDonald's potato suppliers also use methamidophos as a preservative. This is a type of silicone that is used in sealants, breast implants, and children's play putty. Should a person get too much and experience methamidophos poisoning, it can cause:

  • Irritation To The Lungs
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Runny Nose
  • Problems With Breathing
  • Numbness or Weakness in the Extremities
  • Blurred Vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred Speech
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Coma
  • Death

Lastly, McDonald uses oil made from genetically-modified vegetables. Is our food system so out of whack that only a vegan would find it unacceptable to use animal fats and petroleum to make French fries?

For the many people who think that vegans are hippy, New-Age complainers, they should probably do a bit of research into some of their favorite foods. Are McDonald's fries vegan? No! However, it is about so much more than some animal fat in the oil. The entire process and chemicals used to make these signature snacks are anything but safe to eat.

Is McDonalds Getting Ready To Launch Vegan Products?

McDonald's is doing a test pilot for a vegan burger in Finland. The test will run from October 4th until late November, says the source. Finland is home to many vegans. Although the corporation should have tested the burger in the United States, it does show some progress.

Perhaps, McDonald's cash flow problems over the past few years have made them reconsider their menu options. Though a vegan burger would be excellent, they should consider cleaning up their fries. All you need is a good potato and some sunflower or coconut oil to make a deliciously crisp fries. Baking is another excellent way to make them.

For now, any vegan who wants an excellent fry needs to go to Burger King or one of the other fast food restaurants. Better yet, why not grab a potato and make some at home? It just a much healthier option all the way around.


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December 7, 2018

Thank you. I am vegan for more than moral reasons. My body violently rejects most animal products. So many people assume otherwise and try to test it, convinced that what I don’t know won’t hurt me. Depending upon the ingredient, the consequence ranges from feeling heavily drugged, to becoming violently ill similar to anaphelectic shock, to going into a comatose type state (aware of surroundings but unable to move or react.. caused twice after unknowingly eating something containing gelatin). I have ended up in the hospital several times and so rarely eat away from home. But a couple years ago, I decided to try some french fries from McDonald’s. I knew something wasn’t right.. now I know why. The thing is, even for those who do not become ill, to deceive someone into putting something into our bodies against our will is a violation of our personal rights. For me, it is akin to battery and should be legally treated as such. People really do need to take this type of thing more seriously. Thanks again for providing such an informative site.

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