The famous burger was invented in 1971 by a franchisee named Al Bernadin
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Despite the McDonald’s ad faux pas, the Quarter Pounder continues to be a regular staple in McDonald’s menu.
This year marks 50 years since the release of McDonald’s Quarter Pounder hamburger. For those who are unfamiliar with this burger, Collins Dictionary defines the Quarter Pounder as a “hamburger that weighs four ounces before it is cooked. Four ounces is a quarter of a pound.” The McDonald’s Canada website proudly declares: “A quarter pound of 100 [percent] Canadian beef and two slices of melting processed cheddar cheese on a toasted sesame seed bun. That’s pure Canadian beefy cheesiness.”
According to a CBC Radio report in April, the Quarter Pounder was invented in 1971 by a franchisee named Al Bernadin. He owned two McDonald’s restaurants in Fremont, California. Bernadin believed McDonald’s was missing a key item in their menu. He felt customers needed to be offered something substantial like a burger with a “higher ratio of meat to bun.” Bernadin then put on his “burger thinking cap” and created a burger containing a pre-cooked weight of just over four ounces. He named it the Quarter Pounder, and the rest is history. Interestingly, Bernadin considered calling it the ‘Big Four Ouncer.’
When the Quarter Pounder made its debut at Bernadin’s locations, he made a sign that read, “Today Fremont, tomorrow the world.” He was not incorrect in his slogan. The Quarter Pounder soon became an instant hit with cust0mers. The name was later trademarked, becoming a part of McDonald’s menu items worldwide.
However, the Quarter Pounder has not gone without controversy. In August 2021, the Daily Hive reported McDonald’s faced criticism and lost a legal battle over an ad the company placed regarding its beef filed by an animal advocacy group called Animal Justice.
McDonald’s claimed their beef used in the very popular Quarter Pounder burger was sustainably sourced, unfortunately, this was not true. Animal Justice argued that McDonald’s was “greenwashing” customers about its Quarter Pounder burger with the use of the ad. This prompted federal authorities to conduct an investigation. The Daily Hive stated, “In the fine print, McDonald’s admits that the beef used in the Quarter Pounder is only 30 [percent] sustainably sourced. The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef is the organization that gave McDonald’s the certification. Animal Justice also claims this group is guilty of greenwashing consumers about beef. Animal Justice asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Competition Bureau to investigate the ads.”
Camille Labchuk, executive director and lawyer at Animal Justice, said the McDonald’s ad was very misleading. “Beef is not green, and trying to dupe consumers into thinking otherwise can be false advertising—which is illegal,” she said. “Farming cows for food is a major driver of human-caused climate change, as well as water pollution and biodiversity loss.”
Notably, Animal Justice cited estimations from a science-based emissions report, conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report stated that animal agriculture produces roughly 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—almost equivalent to the entire transportation sector. And because of the investigation conducted by the CFIA; along with a conversation between McDonald’s and the CFIA—the popular fast-food giant stopped running the ad.
In a statement to the Daily Hive, McDonald’s said, “[We] are proud of our long-standing commitment to Canadian suppliers, ranchers and farmers who are working to improve sustainability practices in how beef is produced.” The restaurant reiterated its business practices and philosophies, “From their careful stewardship of the land and animals to implementing leading ranching practices that help minimize environmental impact, we believe that our food, including the 100 [percent] Canadian beef used in our beef patties, can be produced in a way in which farmers and communities, animals and the planet thrive.”
Despite the McDonald’s ad faux pas, the Quarter Pounder continues to be a regular staple in McDonald’s menu. The standard Quarter Pounder remains the same (with or without cheese). The burger has been amended giving customers the following alternatives: Double Quarter Pounder (with or without cheese), Maple BBQ & Bacon Quarter Pounder (or double) and Quarter Pounder BLT (or double).
Lastly, the success of the Quarter Pounder could be attributed to a rival burger restaurant that attempted to make a version of the McDonald’s classic. According to CBC Radio, in the 1980s, A&W released the “Third-of-a-Pound Burger.” It cost the same as the Quarter Pounder, but with a third of a pound of beef, rather than just a quarter pound. Remarkably, it outperformed the Quarter Pounder in taste tests. The problem was that no one bought it. A&W was perplexed and created focus groups to find out why, and the reason was straightforward and funny. It turns out, people are not very adept with fractions.
Over 50 percent of the people in the focus group questioned the cost of the third-pounder. They wanted to know why they had to pay the same price for a third of a pound as they did for a quarter-pound at McDonald’s. They believed A&W was charging them too much and felt ripped off as the same CBC Radio report stated, “People genuinely thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter pound. Because 3 was less than 4.”