Tuesday, October 23, 2007

920 calories? I'll take two, please.

Hardee's has created another menu item that proves it, not Burger King, is the true royalty of fast food: the Country Breakfast Burrito. This remarkable burrito contains "two egg omelets filled with bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns and sausage gravy, all wrapped inside a flour tortilla." The perceptive reader will note that it appears to be the sort of large breakfast available at any sit-down restaurant, except it is not delivered on a plate by a surly waitress. As with any breakfast filled with meat, cheese, and eggs, it is not light fare: 920 calories and 60 grams of fat.

While Hardee's appears to be reaping some publicity benefits from the sheer spectacle of this item, it was introduced due to market pressures. According to Brad Haley, the head of marketing of Hardee's, there was customer demand for a single breakfast item that would be filling enough so the customer wouldn't have to buy two items. Sounds like a triumph of capitalism: the customers want something, so a company seeks to gain their business by offering something that satisfies the demand.* Hardee's even publishes the nutritional content of the item so there is no danger of an unassuming consumer buying the wrong product.

Of course, there has to be a joykill. Jayne Hurley, from the Collection of Assholes Center for Science in the Public Interest claims the "country breakfast bomb" is a "lousy invention" that "represents half a day's calories and a full day's worth of saturated fat and salt." She is certainly entitled to her incorrect opinion, and if this were a sane universe, one could simply ignore her. However, she is part of the organization that hates freedom and customer choice so much that it has sued Burger King, KFC, and Frito-Lay. As such, public derision is necessary.

First, calling it the "country breakfast bomb" is just asinine. It's a sit-down breakfast in a tortilla, not a weapon. RDX is an explosive; bacon and eggs are not. It seems elementary, but these are the geniuses that sued Betty Crocker because the dry carrot cake mix didn't contain enough carrots. Maybe some large pictures in crayon would help them understand what a real bomb is.

Second, it's clearly not a "lousy invention." It was introduced in response to customer demand, which means it's the sort of invention that the free-market produces reguarly. Hardee's isn't forcing anyone to buy it (unlike a lousy government program), and consumers are free to take their business elsewhere if this item offends them. While "lousy invention" sounds more objective than "I don't like it," Ms. Hurley obviously meant the latter.

Next, the burrito only "represents half a day's calories" if one is completely sedentary and must eat less than 2,000 calories a day to avoid gaining weight. However, there are many people who have been known to get off their asses occasionally and thus require a greater number of calories to maintain their health. For them, this burrito could represent a reasonable breakfast.

Finally, she's correct that the fat content is high, but there is nothing inherently wrong with calories derived from fat; in fact, for those that need the calories, fat calories are probably better than those derived from carbohydrates for blood sugar reasons. This breakfast could actually be healthier than a stack of whole-grain pancakes. Alert the media! Oh wait, that's only done when panicking about a new fast-food item, not when using common sense.

Sadly, these nannies won't be happy until the federal government mandates a diet of sweet potatoes, broccoli, butternut squash, and spinach. I will do my best to fight them by patronizing companies that meet customer demand and enjoying every bite of delicious, fat-filled food. Hey CSPI, my bike/run workout tomorrow morning is going to burn over 2,000 calories. Guess where I'll be eating breakfast?

*The price is another triumph of capitalism: $2.69. Nearly 1,000 calories (including lots of high-energy fat and protein) for under three dollars. Considering how much time and energy it took 100 years ago just to survive, this is a testament to American progress.


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