Fast food – 50 years of mcdonald’s in germany

95 penny. That’s how much a hamburger costs when the u.S. Burger chain mcdonald’s opens on 4. December 1971 opened its first (west) german location in munich. Apart from that, the menu at that time only included cheeseburgers, french fries, coca-cola, soda and coffee.

Today, mcdonald’s is the world leader in burger chains, with over 38.000 sites around the globe and 1448 in germany. And there are more to come: "we have a stated growth target for the next few years and are actively looking for new sites," says a spokesperson.

The company’s expansion also reflects the social changes of the past decades. "The seventies saw an awakening of interest in food and food culture, and also in international cuisine," says margareta buning-fesel, director of the federal center for food (bzfe). "That’s why there was also a gross openness to fast food and ready meals."

Sugar and meat

But the change in eating habits had already begun before then. "Since the post-war period, we have seen a strong increase in sugar consumption, which came with the sugary drinks from the USA," says hans hauner, head of the else kroner-fresenius center for nutritional medicine at the tu munich. "What also goes in the wrong direction is the increase in the consumption of meat and meat products."However, both have been stagnating for several years, or are slightly declining.

"The share of fast food has increased dramatically in the past five decades," says scientist. "Bratwurst, doner, hamburger, pizzas, or in bavaria also the liver cassemel". Only forty percent of households still cook on a regular basis."This was due, among other things, to the high proportion of single households.

The trend toward fast food was fueled by another u.S. Invention that became widespread in the 1980s: "the microwave oven came into german kitchens," says buning-fesel.

"The seventies can also be dated as the beginnings of a significant attention to the issue of obesity," says the head of the federal center for nutrition. "Nutritional communication and information has become stronger. What came along in the eighties was the issue of whole foods and the environment, the musli wave, and the "fast food" movement."

Healthy food is also down to money

But no one could claim that healthy food and healthy lifestyles had therefore become established. "Part of the population has worse nutrition today than 50 years ago," says nutritionist hauner. "Many better educated people pay attention to their health and value healthy food. On the other hand, we have economically weaker population groups and socially disadvantaged people who often eat unhealthy food."

The data on the population’s eating habits is poor, however, says buning-fesel. "It is clear that there is definitely a food shortage, and also food poverty, in germany. There are really strata of the population that have difficulties in terms of income to buy enough to eat."

Because nutrition is also a question of money. A restaurant charges higher prices than a snack bar, high quality and fresh food is more expensive than cheap frozen and ready meals. But even in well-off families, there is less time for cooking today than there was at the beginning of the seventies, since both parents usually work.

The restaurant business model imported from the u.S. Has spread across the board: "the auber-haus market boomed and with it the restaurant business," says a spokeswoman for the hotel and restaurant association dehoga, commenting on the situation before the start of the corona pandemic. "Almost one in three euros was spent in a brand-name catering business."

Snack bars on the rise

In absolute numbers even more strongly expanded than the self-service chains have imbisse of each kind. In 2005, the federal statistical office counted a total of 1544 "restaurants with self-service"; by 2019, the figure had risen to 3790. But "imbisstuben and the like" multiplied from 14.648 to 35.656.

"In any case, there were fewer overweight people in germany at the end of the sixties than today," says buning-fesel. "From 1999 to 2013, the number of obese people – that is, those who are really severely overweight – increased by 40 percent for men and 24 percent for women."The trend toward obesity has not abated since then, as can be read in the reports of the german nutrition society.

Even in the long term, today’s germans are probably no better nourished than their great- and great-great-grandparents: "before the first world war, people ate a lot more bread and potatoes," says nutritionist hauner. "The bread was much coarser and richer in fiber. I don’t think that the population was much worse fed then than now, even if there is a wider range of food available today."

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