Will Fast Food Survive the Apocalypse?

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It's commonly accepted that two things will survive the apocalypse: cockroaches and Cher. Cockroaches are believed to have survived on Earth for well over 300 million years (longer than the dinosaurs), can live without their heads for up to a month, and can withstand a 1,000 rad dose of radiation (more than ten times that of humans, though actually less than the forgotten flour beetle, which can survive a dose of up to 100,000 rads). As for Cher, after numerous plastic surgeries she has evolved into an indestructible, bionic super-life form more than capable of surviving till the end of eternity.

The noble cockroach and the cyborg Cher have comprised this mythical list of apocalypse survivors for decades, yet I wonder, is there something else we can add?

564926_315141471888679_188408684561959_769966_1002825053_n-thumb-400x225.jpgImage from LiveWell Wellness Centers

Last week, the above picture surfaced on message boards and blogs around the internet. It depicts a variety of fast food meals purchased a little over two years ago, each looking just as mouthwatering as the day the were served. This is somewhat staggering, but it's not quite as staggering as 2008's twelve year-old burger. These examples beg the obvious question: Can fast food survive the apocalypse?

The simple answer is no. Like the vast majority of organic matter, a hamburger will be either obliterated by raging torrents of fire, pulverized by monstrous tidal waves, or consumed by one of the Four Horsemen for a quick lunch before the ensemble finishes up wiping Switzerland off the face of the planet.

800px-Apocalypse_vasnetsov.jpg"Did you have to raze that last Mickey-D's, Famine? I'm craving a Big Mac."

Now, with that question answered, we can move on to a more sciene-y one: why doesn't fast food rot? The answer is somewhat multifaceted.

Fast-food opponents might be quick to implicate "evil" chemical preservatives, but they would be mostly incorrect. Chemical keepers like sulfites, nitrates, and propionates do help ward off molds, maintain colors, and prevent bacterial growth, but they aren't the primary reason for a Happy Meal's apparent immortality.

The secret to the "burger of youth" is actually more natural. Fast-food is very fatty, which means that it's low in moisture. Without moisture, mold and decomposers like bacteria and fungi have a difficult time growing. In addition, fast-food is often high in sodium, which humans have been using for eons to preserve food.

In 2010, one enlightened experimenter over at A Hamburger Today sought to put these reasons to the test. For 25 days he allowed eight various samples of McDonald's burgers and one homemade control burger to rest out in the open air of his apartment. Near the end of the harrowing investigation, he wrote:

At this point, it's been 25 days, 23 calm, cool, and collected

discussions with my wife about whether that smell in the apartment is

coming from the burgers or from the dog, and 16 nights spent sleeping on

the couch in the aftermath of those calm, cool, and collected


The test may have been acutely stressful to his marriage, but it did not disappoint! Our experimenter found that the two largest burgers did show signs of decay! For this reason, he concluded that a fast-food burger, "doesn't rot because it's small size and relatively large surface area

help it to lose moisture very fast. Without moisture, there's no mold or

bacterial growth."

While fast-food may not last through the apocalypse, it might just persist up until the apocalypse!

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