McPicanha and Rib Whopper: “Truth or Dare”

McDonald’s Corporation is the largest fast food chain in the world, being a well-known symbol of North American capitalism, more prominent, in our opinion, than the flag of the country that originated it. Among its products, the main dish is burgers, followed by fries and ice cream, among others not so important. Far beyond snacks and meals, the company translates a franchise business model that has become an icon, not only for other suppliers linked to the same object, but also for several other and different areas. Its global presence is so remarkable that it’s easier to point out which countries don’t have a McDonald’s franchise, or which countries the restaurant hasn’t arrived yet.

The United Nations (UN) recognizes the existence of 193 countries and 17 territories. Well, there are 35 thousand restaurants of the brand scattered in 119 countries and territories, which reveal the influence of the great “M d’oro”[1]. Created in the United States in the early 1940s, McDonald’s, named after its patriarchs, began with a steakhouse, then moved into a hamburger restaurant in 1948 with its own production line principles. Under the new management, in 1955, a franchise system began which is still a worldwide model today. [2].

On his turn [3]and no less important, although smaller, is the Burger King restaurant chain, founded in 1953 in Florida. A curiosity is that on September 2, 2010, all of the company’s shares were acquired by the Brazilian investment fund called 3G Capital [4], based in Rio de Janeiro, it can be said that, for a few years, the fast food chain was exclusively Brazilian. Given its size and expansion, Burger King can be said to be McDonald’s biggest competitor, being the second largest franchise in this sector in the world, with more than fifteen thousand stores, being present in more than one hundred countries. [5].

After the synthetic presentations of the main actors of the observed problem, we move on to the object of discord.

In a recent advertising campaign featured on the product packaging, McDonald’s began announcing a “new” hamburger, named “McPicanha”, referring to a noble cut of meat.

However, doubts began to arise and, when asked, the fast food chain said it used the name “Picanha”, but its hamburger, the meat it contained, did not contain picanha. [6]. Faced with strong pressure from consumers and consumer protection agencies, McDonald’s admitted that it made a mistake in choosing the name and that the sandwich would then be presented as “the biggest meat in Méqui with a delicious picanha-flavored sauce”. In fact, McDonald’s burgers are made from 100% beef, according to the network, which comes from the shoulder, brisket, neck, back and legs of the ox. In other words, no Picanha.

What actually happened, and this is what the fast food chain had defended, is that the burger, or at least the meat, smelled like picanha. In our personal opinion, we understand that such a goal is a bit difficult. When you buy a picanha, meat that today has a kilo that exceeds a hundred reais, you are looking for a product of great softness, and not just something that gives off a different aroma when roasted.

On the other hand, after all the hype generated by the Picanha case, it was time to analyze whether even the biggest competitor, Burger King, had adopted similar behaviors in offering products. And, in this sense, the case of the “Whopper Rib” comes to the fore. As the advert for the sandwich suggests, it would contain pork chops, as you can see:

When asked about the presence of the ribs in the burger, Burger King confirmed that it is made with pork shoulder and has a “natural rib eye flavor” [7]. In its defense, Burger King claims that it makes it clear in its commercials that the burger meat would come from the pork shoulder.

Against this background, a commotion has formed. Was there misleading advertising in the sandwich campaigns indicated? Do the ads make you believe that the burger is made from a certain type of meat, and in fact it isn’t? Would companies lack transparency in adequately clarifying that burgers only taste like picanha or pork chops?

On sites such as Reclame Aqui, social networks, among others, there have been several manifestations of consumers dissatisfied with the behavior of both companies, which, in short, is classified as unfair, for having announced something that did not correspond to the truth. There are those who claim that the complaint, so to speak, came from employees of the McDonald’s network stating on Facebook that the steak burger was the same meat used in other sandwiches on the network, thus having no steak. [8].

The National Consumer Defense System has come into question through some Procons. Procon-SP, for example, notified McDonald’s to explain the case, recording who in some advertisements had the expression “picanhamente delight”. It should be noted that the product was not created in 2022, having already appeared on the market in 2019. In line with what was requested by Procon-SP, McDonald’s was asked to present the nutritional table of the sandwiches, certifying the composition of each of the ingredients. , we highlight the advertising materials and advertising media of the 2022 line, as well as the data of the immediately preceding campaign [9].

In the case of Burger King, the Federal District Procon was the sale of Whopper Ribs, considering that until then only the presence of flavor was found in the burger, but without the presence of pork chops. The agency also underlined this “The information on the composition of the snack is not clear in the advertisement and can mislead the consumer, which can be characterized as misleading advertising” [10].

Even Conar, the National Advertising Self-Regulation Council, albeit without police power, but with the ability to report the deficiency and inability of a specific advertising campaign, is also investigating the case, opening an ethical process to verify the veracity of the McPicanha advertisement.

As Erik Jayme teaches, “the survival of the entire legal system needs the figure of the average person (” Durchschnittsperson “), whose visions and expectations will be the aid for the interpretation and implementation of notions of law, indeterminate notions and general clauses, underlining the importance of the projections of such assessments in the context of comparative law “ [11]. And, according to the aforementioned jurist, the consumer is a “less attentive observer” (ibid., P. 34), and children, for example, can become potential victims of abusive advertising.

In this case, McDonald’s sandwiches have a very intense targeting on children and adolescents, and are even sold, together or separately, with toys representing superheroes, characters from animated films, television, etc. Analyzing the content of the advertising images of both sandwiches, at least from the point of view of this columnist, the intention to indicate the presence of sirloin or pork chops in the burgers is quite evident. And the doubt that hangs in the air is: would there be the same number of sales if the messages made it clear that the sandwiches contain neither picanha nor ribs, but only the supposed smell? Considering the size and extent of the activities of both companies mentioned, the number of people potentially affected is incalculable, considering only Brazil.

The consumer is vulnerable by nature (Article 4, point I of the CDC), and buys on impulse, with little or no reflection, often satisfying only basic desires, such as hunger. The promise of the presence of picanha in a hamburger, at a time when a large part of the population can no longer afford beef, given high inflation and unemployment, is an inviting invitation to buy the sandwich, which has a very high price. lower. reduced by one kilo of the aforementioned cut. However, it does not seem to be fair behavior towards the customer, if it is proved that the long-awaited picanha does not exist.

Article 37, first paragraph, of the Consumer Code, Law no. 8.078 / 90, provides that all misleading advertising, defined as any “form of information or communication of an advertising nature, in whole or in part false, or in any case, even by omission, capable of misleading the consumer about the nature, characteristics, quality, quantity, properties, origin , the price and any other data on products and services “.

If one of the duties linked to objective good faith, information, represents the sharing with the other contractor of what is known, allowing the latter to have a correct expectation of the relationship that will be stipulated, the opposite of which is advertising misleading. This promises an effectiveness of the product or service that one of the contracting parties, in this case the supplier, already knows that it will never reach the level of truth and satisfaction guaranteed by the announcement. This practice is, compared to article 67 of the CDC, a criminal figure: “making or promoting advertising that you know or should know to be misleading or abusive; sanction: imprisonment from three months to one year and a fine”.

Without yet intending to undermine the momentum of both McDonald’s and Burger King campaigns, these companies must, at the very least, have an accentuated loyalty model with their consumers, making it clear that their new burgers contain only flavor, but not the meat that gives the sandwich its name, which is, by the way, quite paradoxical. It is even suggested, for a good and healthy relationship with the vast clientele, to change the names of the products, avoiding confusion and wear of the brands. Furthermore, apologies with sandwich donations (even those reported here), for example to social organizations, would be very welcome and would show that, after all, if making mistakes is human, admitting the mistake and trying to fix it is good. wish. . On the other hand, persisting in the wrong goal can generate a wide range of interpretations, which can further erode the image of the two networks involved.

[6] See https://economics.ig.com.br/2022-04-30/mcdonalds-admite-erro-anuncia-volta-mcpicanha-novo-nome.html. Accessed on 5/10/2022.

[7] He saw https://economy.uol.com.br/noticias/redacao/2022/05/02/burger-king-e-acusado-de-vender-whooper-de- costela-sem-costela.htm? cmpid = copiaecola. Accessed on 5/10/2022.

[8] He saw https://economy.ig.com.br/2022-04-28/procon-mcdonalds-mcpicanha.html. Accessed on 5/10/2022.

[9] He saw https://economy.ig.com.br/2022-04-28/procon-mcdonalds-mcpicanha.html. Accessed on 5/10/2022.

[10] He saw https: // www.correiobrasiliense.com.br/cidades-df/2022/05/5004823-procon-df-suspende-venda-do-Whopper-rib-for-burger-king.html. Accessed on 5/10/2022.

[11] JAYME, Erik. Visions for a postmodern theory of comparative law. Translation by Claudia Lima Marques. Courts magazine, São Paulo, nº 759, p.33, gen. 1999

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