What Really Happens To A McDonald's Burger When You Leave It Out

Recently photos of a McDonald’s burger left out for 180 days with no visibile signs of decomposing went viral. Consumerist reader GitEmSteveDave decided to recreate the experiment using time-lapse photography and came up with drastically different results. The burger was completely gone within just a short period of time! Also discovered? Time-lapse cats are hilarious.

Subscribe to Ben’s posts by RSS.
Follow Ben on Twitter.
Email ben at consumerist.com


Edit Your Comment

  1. adlauren says:

    hey it’s that guy!

  2. denros says:

    I take it the JerseyCamâ„¢ was in the shop?

  3. MDSasquatch says:

    PETA is going to bash this guy; I sure hope his cats don’t die.

    • Jfielder says:

      I hope you’re kidding…

      • MDSasquatch says:

        Of course I am; I am no fan of PETA and I can see them getting all up in arms because he let his cats eat McDonalds.

        As a cat owner myself, I am aware that “people food” can cause digestion and kidney issues, in some cases, it could lead to death for fluffy.

  4. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    That’s too funny. I always thought I had the only cat that prefered the bun and fries over the actually meat patty itself.

    • ARP says:

      I think that’s the lesson about McDonald’s food. If the cat is eating the bun and fries first, you’re doing something wrong.

    • RandomHookup says:

      But the burger’s the first thing eaten, isn’t it? At about 1:12, you see the patty being pulled out by a cat and there isn’t a burger on the bun after that. It looks a little deceiving because of the shading on the bun.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      From how it seems, Skeeter liked the patty, Dizzy liked the fries, and Cynder ate most of the bun.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Yah, my wee ones would’ve demolished the fries first, then probably moved on to the bun. That ‘downer cow’ meat is so skanky, I doubt they’d be interested.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Given how many hamburgers McDonalds makes and sells, how many “downer cows” do you think exist?

      • lordargent says:

        I was watching the video and thinking to myself “my cats would be eating those fries”, then the bag jumped off the plate.

  5. rawley69 says:


  6. enomosiki says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if his cat had diarrhea for the next two days.

  7. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    <3 Gitemstevedave :D

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      Me tooo! Was this what you were trying to show me the other night, GESD?? If so, dammit, I missed out on an early preview!!

  8. Spaceman Bill Leah says:

    Needs more lab coat.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      I dont think they come in cat sizes

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Ah, but GitEmSteveDave does have a lab coat.

        What’s it being used for if not in the course of doing science?

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          i’m going to bet we don’t want to know

        • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

          I’m starting to think that they took the labcoat back from him as soon as the pictures were taken. I have not seen any evidense of labcoat whatsoever since then. This would have been a perfect time to wear it, for sure.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            I forgot. I wore the Consumerist shirt, but in hindsight, wearing the labcoat may have made it funnier.

  9. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    “…even the packaging that they’re in will dissolve in four hours.”

    For some reason, that really made me laugh. Nice job SteveDave.

  10. Stella says:

    I’m surprised the cats waited as long as they did to eat the burger and fries. Also it’s pretty clear that cats love McD’s french fries. Their burgers? Not so much…

  11. grumpskeez says:

    Ha! well done. +1

  12. SagarikaLumos says:

    The thing that’s failed to mention about the McDonald’s experiments (besides this one) is that no condiments are added and the food is kept dry and covered. It’s hard for much to happen to something with low moisture, high salt, no air, and no access to insects.

    • Fallom says:

      Human bodies don’t decay in those conditions, either. Why are you putting something like your body in your body???? That’s disgusting!

    • daveinva says:

      “It’s hard for much to happen to something with low moisture, high salt, no air, and no access to insects.”

      Thus describing why I didn’t get a lot of action from the ladies in college.

    • Jasen says:

      “Covered”? If you mean covered by a roof, then yes. In none of these time-lapse experiments has anyone kept the food in a covered container.
      That’s really not “covered.”

  13. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Ahahahaha! Science!!

    Also, I always pictured GitEmSteveDave as older. Its like when you see a picture of a radio personality and it’s not what you thought.

    • jesirose says:

      LOL I hate that when I visit my favorite talk radio host’s websites or see them on the news, and see how different they look from the picture in my head. If I see them on the news I can’t watch, the voice+face just weirds me out.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I’m my own avatar. Yes, that’s me, and I think we DO need to save Baloon Boi.

  14. ThunderRoad says:

    My cats go nuts for the fries, so I’m not surprised at all they were the first to go.

  15. dbeahn says:

    I paid for the whole seat, but I only needed the edge!

    Well done =]

  16. TheRedSeven says:

    Never let it be said that GetEmSteveDave doesn’t stand behind his snark with 100% effort!

  17. guroth says:

    So then the answer is ‘Yes’, he CAN has cheezburger.

  18. SagarikaLumos says:

    And another thing. You could do this video in real time with dogs instead of cats.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      There is a dog in the video too.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        Huck once ate a whole pizza while I was out of the house doing something, and got yelled at for it and spent the night outside. He’s MUCH more hesitant to do it since then. So he waits for the cat to eat first. He’s also scared of the cats, so they can keep him away.

    • theSuperman says:

      Except the food would be gone 5 seconds after putting the plate down. You would have to do slow motion instead of time lapse

  19. Nighthawke says:

    Hey, ain’t that Schrodinger’s cat?

  20. theycallmeGinger says:

    I love how the kittehs stalk the plate. “Who me? Iz just givin myself a bath over here. Nuthin ta see.”

    On another note, it’s nice to see some activity over at Jersey Cam….

  21. Villnius says:

    The “experiment” is meaningless without a control for comparison. What happens when you put a home made, well done burger and hand cut, baked “fries” next to it for the same time frame?

    • JKulp42757 says:

      At the end of the SuperSize Me documentary, they have a comparison with a regular “mom & pop” style restaurant burger and fries….basically what you would make at home.

      I don’t remember how long it lasts, but it does mold all over, and the McDonalds burger and fries look fine.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You’re wrong. And what’s scary is I have read your same comment, written by others, over and over, which should show how bad people’s memory is. It makes you wonder that if you mis-remembered that important lesson, what else may you have mis-remembered?

        In the Super Size Me experiment, ALL the burgers molded. The only thing that didn’t mold is the fries, which to me shows that they were made and prepared in a low to no mold environment:

    • xamarshahx says:

      did you watch the video? its supposed to be funny…

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      They have/will eat my home made burgers, and will also lick the grease off the cast iron pan and the plate after I leave. But I am not making fries.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        that’s another reason i keep my cast iron in the oven. the pan perpetually smells like bacon and that draws in the cats

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          I don’t mind that part. They can lick it all they want. When I preheat it, that kills everything they may have left.

  22. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Epic win for GESTD. You win the internet.

  23. Duffin (Ain't This Kitty Cute?) says:

    I wish someone would do this as a serious experiment sans cats because he had some great points at the beginning of the video. It was amusing, sure, but I’d like a definitive experiment of what does really happen to a McDonald’s burger left out for 180 days.

    • Doughboy says:

      I wish someone would do more then just fast food and McD. I think Penn & Teller had a great point that there is equal fat and preservatives in others foods then just fast food. Not really scientific when you just take one business to task.

    • Doughboy says:

      I wish someone would do more then just fast food and McD. I think Penn & Teller had a great point that there is equal fat and preservatives in others foods then just fast food. Not really scientific when you just take one business to task.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:
    • Rachacha says:

      Watch Supersize Me. They ran such an experiment. A Mcnonalds burger and fries vs a burger and fries from a local burger joint. They placed both meals inside a glass jar and waited.

      Within a few days the local burger began developing mold, and several weeks into it, they had to discard the local burger because the smell was sickening. The McDonalds burger looked exactly the same way as the day they took it home. No mold and the bun was still “fresh”.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You’re wrong. And you aren’t the first. Which makes me think A: people didn’t watch SuperSize Me, and just heard about this experiment from someone who misremembered it, and say they saw it and parrot the false info, or B: someone DID watch it but were biased enough to remember it wrong to reinforce their internal bias.

        Here is the REAL video from the movie uploaded over two years ago on youTube:

        • Rachacha says:

          Or C. Simply forgot the exact details as the movie was released 6+ years ago and remembered the basis for the experiment “Real Food” vs. McDonalds and remembered that the Mc. Donalds food did not decomponse as quickly as “Real Food” and they were unable to find the video clip on YouTube.

          I watched Supersize Me, and it did not really change my eating habbits around eating at McDonalds. I do whish however that in the Supersize me experiment they had removed the top bun before placing the sandwich in the jar. We saw visible decomponsition and mold, but it would have been interesting to see if the meat/fish was initiating the decomposition or if it was the bun.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

            What is really disturbing, to me at least, is that just like you don’t get maggots without flies, you don’t get mold without mold spores. So it would appear that the local places had more mold around the food than McDonalds did. It is understandable as at the mom and pop places, they may have the bun bag open on the counter and at McDonald’s, they are usually in a little slide open drawer that keeps them warmish. Also the people who prepare at the Mom and Pop usually do more than prepare your food, so they touch more things around the food, and then the food, vs. McDonalds employees usually just handling things that pertain to their food prep jobs, and then handing it to people who bag it, and then someone who hands it to you over the counter. The local place may also not clean out their kitchen like McDonald’s does, may be more cramped, or have the ventilation that McD does, so the kitchen is a little more “closed” and can breed mold more easy.

            I think on a whole, we should consider that the food is in us for ~1-2 days, not weeks and we have bacteria, stomach acid, an immune system, etc… that helps us.

  24. thinkdaddy says:

    Cats aside — I think there is misunderstanding about what a scientific “experiment” is. What all of the these McDonald’s test are are “observations.”

    Without some sort of variables and controls, it’s really not an “experiment.”

    • PencilSharp says:

      Wait, isn’t the orange cat’s name “Control”?
      And, yes, time-lapse cats are funny.
      And, no, you cannot has cheezburger. You can have this McDonald’s thing, though…

  25. vmxeo says:

    This is exactly the kind of hard-hitting investigative journalism that keeps me coming back to this blog. Well done Steve.

    ..and thank you especially for showing us your receipt so we don’t have to collectively tackle you in the parking lot.

  26. marlathetourist says:

    I didnt think it was possible for me to

  27. VOIDMunashii says:

    Completely pointless, but funny all the same.

  28. kursk says:

    Shoot, I should have known better than to watch this just before lunch. Now I want a hamburger.

  29. packy says:

    Dammit. Now I want a McDonald’s burger.

  30. deathbecomesme says:

    So that solves it. When you leave out a happy meal ninja cats break into your house and eat it.

  31. 3rdUserName says:

    I want that shirt.. Send it to me NOW!

  32. CalicoGal says:

    My cats wouldn’t eat it.
    They’d just lick everything. I don’t know why, but although they always want to see what we’re eating, they will only lick whatever bit is offered to them.

  33. Incredulous1 says:

    So McDonald’s = cat food

    Good to know – when I retire I can get my cat food I’ll be eating from mickey d’s

  34. tjustman says:


  35. Slave For Turtles says:

    I showed this to a young person in my life. She said, in response to the last line, “Why are you so hungry afterwards? Because the cat in your stomach ate your burger! That’s why!”

    Thank for the awesome video, GitEmSteveDave. It was so much fun!

  36. DoktorGoku says:

    I’m lovin’ it!

  37. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Bwaa ha ha ha ha!!! That was awesome!

  38. PsychicPsycho says:

    Well, that answers that, they CAN has cheezburger.

  39. Yentaleh says:

    Steve we love you! Thanks for giving us a unbiased and approachable report on what happens to Mc Donalds burger and fries. (Now if you love your kitties you will get them checked out at your vet, because with all th preservatives and chemicals in McDonalds food, if its not good for us, then its obviously not good for Fluffy!)

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I feed them Purina One. First ingredient, meat. McDonalds Hamburger? First ingredient, meat(the other two are salt and pepper). So there is really no difference between the two. As for the fries, the little buggers lick my cast iron pan after I cook all the time, so they get enough sweet sweet grease.

  40. b612markt says:

    If it was a cheezburger, it would have been gone a lot quicker

  41. Graymalkin56 says:

    For me, the most unbelievable thing about this video is that the watch and thermometer in front of the plate were left entirely undisturbed. My boy Mulder would’ve knocked both of those off the table within two minutes.

    The Happy Meal would have ended up scattered about on the floor — but entirely uneaten, because it hasn’t been shredded finely enough to satisfy my picky eaters.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      The secret is tape. Both on the plate and the humidity meter. The watch was very steady on it’s band. I knew if I didn’t tape it down, it would be on the floor, and the cats would pretend like they found it that way.

  42. Andyf says:

    I hope that you’re getting those cats the medical attention that they’re going to need after eating all of that!