I work in a factory that makes McDonald's french fries. AMA
W-2 with JR Simplot name (comes from corporate which is in Boise)
wikipedia which shows Simplot makes McDonald's fries (third paragraph under J.R. Simplot Company)
google street view of the factory outside (easier than driving)
Update: I realized that I needed to add some context here because all of this information is useless if it leads you to false conclusions and assumptions. Take the anecdotes with a few grains of salt. There are upwards of 2 millions of pounds of fries (not just McDonald's fries) processed at the factory every day. The chance that you will be the lucky person to chance upon a disgusting box of fries that should not have made it out the door is nearly negligible, which to be quite frank is why that happens in the first place. Also, realize that this is true for most food processing facilities. It becomes cost prohibitive to weed out all the stupids and ensure everything is engineered in a way to eliminate all negative happenings. This is a reality of the world we live in today. Do not assume that all the awful things I have mentioned here will happen to you - but remember that so long as you eat processed food, they will likely happen to you at least a few times in your life (by the way, I am not judging people for eating processed food because I eat it too)!
edit: Finishing up with all the unanswered questions. I'll be deleting this account after this just in case company lawyers somehow get involved. I hope everybody enjoyed this!
HI! Please don't tell me what you do with that milk. It's white and we'd never know....
Are you actually able to eat McDonald's after making it? That seems worse than sausage.
Fast food is only occasional but yes. I have a strong stomach I guess so I can still eat the processed food, but I don't like the health aspects so I limit it to a bare minimum.
Milk in my happy meal?
next they'll want to put apples in there
The healthier option to a Happy Meal is NOT BUYING YOUR KID A FUCKING HAPPY MEAL.
Are there any potatoes involved in the process?
lol yes there are potatos involved. I answered because happy wanted an answer to an obvious joke question.
Please answer this question.
BrakeleyBrewing should give you karma for getting his question answered for him.
Do they really blast the shit out of the chips/ French fries with 60 /100 kmph jets of water?
YES! Somebody stepped in a water waste flume once and got sucked under and almost drowned. Somebody passing by had to pull him out. This wasn't a flume where fries go, but it still has water moving about the same speed.
For the flumes that carry product, just imagine a few hundred pounds of fries every minute going by at lightning speed. Then imagine them plugging up. The general laborers love when that shit happens!
I'm struggling to imagine these flumes, where can I find pictures? :S
I can't find any pictures/videos that are accurate for the machinery we use. Sorry :( If I can get the chance to make a secret video tomorrow (I'd get fired if caught) I will. I doubt very highly I'll be able to do that for you.
Don't do it. Income > reddit karma
I agree, don't risk your job for a silly Iama.
thought you had misspelled llama... *puppy head tilt
I'd risk my job for a llama....
Exactly why I wouldn't. I'd have to find myself in an area of the factory I am typically not in, alone, and sit there with my phone that I'm not supposed to have when I'm working but always do anyway.
What's the most disgusting thing that you've seen happen to my beloved fries?
I suppose that would be seeing random fries get hung up on conveyor belts for hours (or days) at times, collecting all sorts of grease, dust and sometimes even chemical and then falling back into the line. This is very very rare, but you have to remember that you might be that lucky customer that got a fry that got hung up in a fryer and was cooked for 20 hours at a time and then didn't get picked out by the inspectors. Look at the fries you eat!
what would these fries look like?!?!
Pick out the discolored ones. DO NOT EAT THEM!
like the brown, soggy ones? But those are my favorite! D:
You can eat those within reason. But those were fried a little longer, maybe only a few minutes extra in the industrial fryer. The ones that really look odd you need to throw out.
Well, when I get cancer I now know why. Fuck
I've had plenty of shriveled ass little crispy fries because I figured what the hell, they just got overcooked or something.
Turns out cancer
I accidentally a tumor.
I'm still curious about one of the unanswered questions from above about chemical burns. You said a guy got badly, chemically burned from "watered down alcohol", but that does not seem like a strong enough solvent to burn someone, so what other chemicals are used there that are dangerous for "major chemical burns". Was it a heat burn, or chemical burn?
Smokehouse. We have a lot of different acids and alkalines that are used for various purposes. Smokehouse is very dangerous and can burn you badly. Somebody at worked described the injured worker the best one time when he said "He has the most vacant eyes I have ever seen." The injured worker is not very smart to say the least, but he does do his job well most of the time.
What do you think of this guy who tried to reverse engineer the McDonald french fry process at home?
Did he get it right?
Christ he gets really into that! I'd have to taste to see, but he looks like he at least got the appearance and texture right. It looks like he came close.
yeah the guy is an obessive foodie and even broke out the callipers to measure the fries...
I was interested in the chemistry of it. He seem to have done a lot of experimenting with the salt and temperature to get it right.
The lab techs would know better. Their job is to do exactly what he tried to do.
do they let you take free samples?
We aren't supposed to but we do it anyway. The only time I can think of that somebody got fired for eating or taking food is when somebody tried to sneak out a whole potato home in their lunch box. People can take bags of fries right off the line and fry them in the lab and then bring them to lunch!
Yeah. A single whole potato. He had worked there for over 20 years, and they didn't even give him a write up. Straight up kicked out.
...wtf That must have been a damn good potato
The potatoes are genetically altered and McDonalds has a patent on them. It is technically intellectual property. Good ol McDonalds sees that the same way Intel would see someone taking home a wafer.
Did they let him keep the potato at least?
so your definitely not a unionized plant then.
Oh we are. Our union is worthless. People want out of the union. It always seems like whenever something happens and the union is involved they get nothing done.
A different topic all together, but I personally feel like unions these days are just as bad as the corporations they're supposed to be protecting the workers from.
Long gone are the days when the unions stood for something other than money.
Pretty much. A lot of unions nowadays are either too weak to help their members or too corrupt to care.
A laboratory for... french fries? So deep frying is a science after all. I knew the state fair was actually a complex gathering of highly advanced scientists.
Some of the people take their jobs VERY seriously. Most do not. But yeah, they call it a laboratory when it really is more of a QA room.
What kind of people work in that factory?
You would be amazed at how low the barrier for entry into that place is. We had a guy get major chemical burns on his arms and it took 15 minutes to convince him to go to the hospital. After minor treatment of one arm in our factory lab and then walking him to the front door somebody asked him how his arm felt and he looked at him and said "It hurts, but not as much as this one." He never showed the people treating him that he had burned both arms. It seems that if you show up for work every day and don't break things you are allowed to stay, regardless of if you have a fully functioning brain.
I thought you were making french fries. What kind of caustic chemicals do you use there?
We use mild stuff for sanitizing equipment that will have fries go over it if we don't plan on washing it off. It's FDA approved, but that doesn't mean I trust it. It's basically watered down alcohol, and I wouldn't want to eat fries that get soaked in it. This rule isn't always followed. If you get caught putting dangerous chemical (smokehouse, foam plus, etc...) down near processing equipment without washing it off you will get written up, possibly fired.
Wait... So putting dangerous chemicals down near processing equipment without washing it off means "possibly fired", while stealing a potato means "fired without a write-up"?
You don't get major chemical burns from watered down alcohol, so what kind of other stuff is involved?
You don't get major chemical burns from watered down alcohol
true story. i drink it.
Yeah, that's what makes it so improbable. I work with 70% ethanol daily, and 99.9% when making scales to measure against. It touched my arms dozens of times and while it feels pretty cold and irritates slightly, it not a problem at all.
It wasn't alcohol that he got burned with. The idiot got smokehouse on his arms. He didn't rush to the chemical showers.
Acids and alkalines. They go by various names with various strengths and purposes. Some foam up real nice others mostly stay a liquid. The big thing is to wear your equipment that protects you from it. Some people aren't so smart and don't do that.
I'm really not surprised, I can't imagine it's skilled labour.
It's terrible. Some of the people are complete morons and keep their jobs because nobody else will do the job :[
Anything that is especially sick about the process?
The potatos sit in storage bins for months at a time before they come to us. They collect all manner of rot and vermin. We are allowed specific numbers of fry defects depending on the product. We try to get the worst ones sorted or picked out, but we can't get them all.
Also, we run for 3 weeks 24 hours a day before we have any downtime to clean the processing equipment. Just imagine 3 weeks of caked on grease that your fries might have run across.
The potatos sit in storage bins for months at a time before they come to us
Ummm...this is the same with every potato. All potatoes are harvested at the same time of year. Every potato you eat has sit in a silo or bin somewhere for an indeterminate amount of time. Could be days, could be months. There's nothing really gross about that.
That's true, but that doesn't mean we get rid of the rotten ones that inevitably show up from that process. We have "acceptable limits." Pretty gross.
We have "acceptable limits."
Everything has acceptable limits.
Im NEVER eating again.
I work in a factory that makes ketchup packets. Let's get together
Meet for lunch?
You bring the fries, he'll bring the ketchup.
I'm curious as to why you're tagged as 'Should be doing homework.'....
Fuck. I'm really hungry and now I'm craving McDonalds -__-
Get any sizzle time there, and I'm not talkin' about the fries if you know what I mean
Two people got fired years ago for fucking under the machinery. FYI. And no, I haven't.
Do you remove the skins by pressurizing a vessel with potatoes in it, and suddenly releasing it from pressure? My dad uses that example in his work as a problem solving consultant, and want to know if he's actually right.
Yeah. The peeler operator would know specifics, but that's generally how we do it.
What qualifications do I need to be a peeler operator?
Don't be a fuck-up and get yourself fired. Apply once the position opens. That is it.
I live in Hawaii, where every morsel of dropped food collects a stream of ants like you wouldn't believe. Chips. Almonds. Bread. ANYTHING will cause the ants to come.
I have a six year old who loves McD's, so as you can imagine we occasionally have the errant fry littering our floor.
My question to you, good sir or madam, is why are McD's fries the only things that do not attract ants??? What's in them?
I would assume death is in them if it keeps ants away.
edit: I'm really not sure why ants don't like McDonald's fries. Maybe they are just smarter than us?
What goes into the fries?
I'm not sure about everything because I don't work in that area, but it's mostly the potato, fryer oil, salt (optional) and then the specific mix ingredients according to product/brand. Most things are unsalted. McDonald's fries have changed over the years and are trying to make "healthier" fries. The fucking oil gets in the air and solidifies on EVERYTHING! The oil they use is not healthy at all. People really shouldn't be putting it in their bodies.
Why are McDonald's french fries so limp? Any time someone gives me a McDonald's french fry it's like all of the insides had been removed and only the outer shell remained.
Dude, those fries are the BEST! But usually they are underprocessed. They are a defect that we try to avoid.
is there ANYWHERE besides mcdonalds that I can get those fries.. in wholesale preferably.
No. McDonald's fries are only at McDonald's, and they don't let anybody else use their formula :(
sigh, I figured.. they never fry them fresh for me. and they get soggy at an exponential rate.
Biggest taste factor in fries is the oil you use to fry them. If you get a deep fat fryer and experiment you'll find something you like just as much!
How's your cholesterol?
I DON'T WANT TO KNOW!
What's the secret to making good fries?
Fry time, cooking procedure and the oil used. If you want to make good fries you need to get a deep fryer, try different types of cooking oils (for your particular taste) and then fry until crisp but not burned.
And as oatmeals says, the beef flavoring helps!
Hey, Boise resident here. They have been moving to replace the plant here in the area with a more modern automated facility, at the cost of the majority of the work positions there. Have any similar changeovers been mentioned for your plant, or in your area? What alternatives would you seek, if such an event were to take place?
Yes. We have been making "improvements" for a long time now. Positions are eliminated before the equipment is stress tested well. We then have equipment that runs poorly and less people to run them, which increases the workload on the remaining people.
Boise native here. OP, did you ever get a chance to meet/interact with Mr. Simplot before he died? I ask because he's always kind of been a hero of mine, and I'd love to hear an employee's perspective.
I met him once, when I was maybe 5 or 6. My dad took me and my two sisters (ages 3 and 7 roughly) out to McDonald's as a special treat, and while we were eating in the restaurant, a car with a custom "Mr. Spud" license plate pulled up. An elderly couple got out of it and came inside, smiling and nodding to a couple of people who recognized them as they came in. When they passed our table, the husband smiled kindly and said something to the effect of, "You have three very beautiful little girls, sir," to my father.
At the time, I didn't think much of the compliment, but as I got older and learned who the elderly man was and how much he had done for Idaho, I grew to treasure it.
No I didn't. I saw him. He really was a kind person from what I heard. He always had a good thing to say about the employees and actually did try to make their lives and jobs better. From what I know (from the people who worked at the plant for years) he was one of the rich that this country needs, and wasn't the type to fleece his workers of their well-deserved wages.
Do you eat at McDonalds?
Once in a while. McDonald's fries aren't as bad as anything battered (Burger King, Wendy's, etc...). That oil will congeal into an immoveable mass at over 100 degrees! Imagine that in your body.
No. They go through the fryer and then into the freezer. Coming out of the industrial fryer they have almost no taste besides potato. The fryer at McDonald's is where you get almost all the taste, and that comes from the oil they use.
what is the best part of your job there?
I'm really struggling to answer this, that's why it's taking so long. The only reason I'm there is it pays the bills ($15 an hour without college education, time and a half after 8 hours). I've gotten good at my job so it isn't very hard anymore so I suppose that would be it. There's nothing really good about the job at all.
$15 isn't bad! I was making less wiping asses as a nurse aide.
$15 in North Dakota at that. We had very depressed wages until the oil boom in western North Dakota (and that hasn't affected us at all yet).
There have been some commercials going around with farmers celebrating the quality of their potatoes and saying that only the best potatoes go into McDonald's french fries. Is there ANY truth to this? What are the standards for potatoes in your factory?
Lol no. We use bad potatos sometimes. Really nasty potatos. The QA lab checks our bags every 20 minutes to make sure the fries are in specifications. Can you imagine how many thousands of pounds of fries go by in that time? They can't catch all the bad ones.
edit: The potatos are also graded when they come into the factory and before they are processed. You can't catch all the bad ones by just checking a few out of a bunch though...
How many non-potato ingredients go in? What are they? (other than beef flavoring)
A LOT! I'd have to be at work to look, but the ingredient list has at least 2 dozen ingredients that aren't potato.
Should I be eating McDonalds?
Nobody really should. We do it anyway. Convenient+cheap+tastes good trumps the health issues for most people.
What does the factory smell like?
I come home smelling like fried french fries. People with super-human smell senses can tell. Some parts of the factory smell like garbage....
Are mcdonalds fries suitable for vegetarians?
lol fuck no. They aren't suitable for anybody. They have no meat but they do have a slow death in them.
I work at a dairy that bottles the milk for McDonald's Happy Meals.
Nice to meet you fries.
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