Ours is truly a fast food nation—in America, McDonald’s alone serves 28 million people a day. And while you won’t have any trouble finding some sort of fast food wherever you are, you may have trouble finding your preferred eatery. That’s because fast food is, in many ways, a regional affair—even though you’ll find the Golden Arches from coast to coast, certain chains are more predominant in certain parts of the country. Steve Von Worley’s newly updated Beefspace maps reveal the burger fiefdoms you never knew existed.
The “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”
It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of a basket of goods and services around the world. At market exchange rates, a burger is 44% cheaper in China than in America. In other words, the raw Big Mac index suggests that the yuan is 44% undervalued against the dollar. But we have long warned that cheap burgers in China do not prove that the yuan is massively undervalued. Average prices should be lower in poor countries than in rich ones because labour costs are lower. The chart above shows a strong positive relationship between the dollar price of a Big Mac and GDP per person.
Big Mac-ronomics: What the price of a Big Mac reveals about purchasing power around the world [infographic]
If you like to stay on top of business and economic news, chances are you’re familiar with the Economist’s Big Mac Index: what in its own words is “a fun guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level.” Simply put, if a Big Mac costs 44% less in China than it does in the U.S., this suggests that the yuan is 44% undervalued against the dollar. Likewise, if a Big Mac is 23% more expensive in Canada than in the U.S., that shows the Canadian dollar is 23% overvalued. The infogrpahic below illustrates the latest Big Mac Index update, released on July 28, 2011.
(Click on the title above to learn more.)
Imagine, if you will, the burger force – a field of energy that radiates from every freshly-cooked patty, earth-penetrating and inverse-squared with distance, compelling the hungry carnivore to seek out and devour the well-done ground beef at the source.
Now, wrap that concept in a Star Wars motif – set in the present day, with the second-tier burger chains as the rebels – each, by themselves, without mutual aid, battling the 12,000-plus restaurant McEmpire.