Fast Food’s “Natural” Burgers

Firstly, let me apologise if this post makes you incredibly hungry. Doing the research sure made me crave a good burger. What is a good burger you ask? Well, the more research I did about Carl’s Jr., the more I realised it was not their new “all-natural” burger.

If you’ve seen the adverts, you know how proud Carl’s is about being the first major fast food chain to offer a grass-fed, free-range beef burger devoid of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. When I initially heard about this industry first, I was genuinely impressed. Although it doesn’t always reflect in my food purchasing habits (mostly due to financial pressures), I do genuinely care about animal welfare. However, I also have a love affair with meat, so I don’t think I can quite give it up, but I do want the animal it came from to have lived a natural life. Carl’s burger hit all the sweet spots. Grass-fed, free-range; I was content.

That was, until I noticed the fine print at the bottom of the ads. “All-natural attributes refer to beef patty.” So only the beef is natural? Isn’t the rest of the burger just a bun, some veggies, and sauce? What kind of crap are they putting in the rest that they can’t call the entire burger natural? Well, after doing some research, I realised just how awful the rest truly is.

What the hell Carl’s Jr.! This is deceptive marketing to the extreme! By calling it the “all-natural burger”, Carl’s is giving the impression the entire burger is natural (the fact that “natural” has no proper definition is a separate issue entirely).

This sort of thing really annoys me about companies. They conduct an environmental analysis and when looking at the macro-environment, they see that consumer are demanding more socially and environmentally sustainable products. They then, in a bid to cash-in on the trend, half-arse a “green” product. Add in some green-washing and you pretty much have a recipe for corporate greed. The burger is also priced way higher then their usual fare, $4.69 vs $2.99 for a regular cheeseburger. If Carl’s truly cared about becoming a more sustainable company, why don’t they make all their burgers more natural. This is where I must give credit to A&W Canada. Every beef burger on their menu is made with hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free beef.

There’s also a consequence that Carl’s may not have anticipated. By producing a single burger that contains natural beef, any time you order something else, you’re pretty much asking them to give you a hormone-, steroid-, antibiotic-laden burger. At least with other fast food chains we don’t know what we’re eating (which, don’t get me wrong is terrible in and of itself) and in that sense it is easier to justify eating it, but Carl’s is pretty much admitting they source terribly meat. For shame Carl’s Jr., for shame.

P.S. Natural =/= healthy. Please don’t give in to the sin of vagueness. Here’s the nutritional content of Carl’s all-natural burger:


  1. Great post! I like how you expanded on one of the classroom discussions, and put a definition on what “all-natural” actually is. Putting in the images helps to fully understand it, as the visual aids you’ve added are very detail oriented, which is awesome.

    I think you raise an excellent point about the unanticipated consequences: what WILL Carl’s Jr do? That’s an interesting point that wasn’t raised in class, and I’d love to hear how you would address it!

    -Sam D

  2. Hahaha! Your tone of voice throughout this post is hilarious. However, I completely agree with you. First of all, as marketers, we learn the power of words early on and therefore unlike the masses, we are much more critical and discerning towards what advertisements are saying in marketing communications. The very first time I saw Carl Jr’s ad for an “all-natural” burger, I was already very skeptical. “It’s just a marketing ploy”, I thought. It’s great that you found that graphic showing everything that is UNnatural about the burger. Always read the fine print! I personally don’t think they should even be allowed to claim the burger as an “all-natural” burger when it is only the beef patty that is “natural”. This is basically false advertising. It should be a burger made with an “all-natural” patty. This burger is FAR from being ALL natural.

  3. SO you knew all the hidden secrets of sustainable beef, and now it’s all natural beef as well? Love it haha. This is pretty bad greenwashing claim!

    Many companies enter the sustainable field only because it makes economic sense. That is fine, but if Carl Jr’s ad deceives customers with false information in order to gain the sustainable segment, it’s unacceptable. This just makes me be even more skeptical about lots of products that have tags as ‘organic’, ‘all natural’, or other good causes that they promote. Again we always emphasize on the importance of transparency, therefore companies need to disclose information through website, sustainability report, or third party verification. Or else sustainability advocate like Raman will shoot them down…

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