Free hamburgers spark nutrition discourse

Wendy's Baconator comes with two beef patties, applewood smoked bacon, a toasty bun, mayo, ketchup and American cheese and totals 970 calories. Wendy's will bring its Baconator challenge to ASU today and give away free Son of Baconators. (Photo by Danielle Gregory)

As part of its Ultimate Baconator Challenge Tour, Wendy’s will give away about 1,500 free Son of Baconator burgers between noon and 6 p.m. on Friday outside Wells Fargo Arena.

The restaurant chain has given more than 30,000 Son of Baconators nationwide, and the tour has been a huge hit, said Janna Chapman, spokeswoman for Wendy's public relations company, Ketchum.

“We really want to reach out to college fans and students because we think this burger fits perfectly with that audience,” she said.

ASU VegAware president Ryan Blum has a different take.

Blum, a justice studies and philosophy sophomore and a vegan, said students should consider the health hazards and animal rights violations before eating fast food items like the Baconator or its offspring.

“Calling it a Baconator makes it more appealing and separates us from the reality of factory farming and how these pigs are treated,” he said.

Blum said giving away unhealthy fast food is borderline malicious, considering the amount of cardiovascular-related disease and illness in America.

“Fast food restaurants promote this cultural idea that eating meat is good and that it is not harmful to your body,” he said.  “That’s just a flat out lie.”

The Son of the Baconator contains 700 calories, 43 grams of fat and 18 grams of saturated fat, according to the Wendy’s website.

Nutrition professor Punam Ohri-Vachaspati said a Baconator is one of the unhealthiest foods a person could choose to eat.

“A Baconator with fries and a medium drink will provide almost as many calories as a sedentary individual needs to consume in one day,” she said. “It does not fit into a healthy meal pattern, even on an occasional basis.”

Ohri-Vachaspati said fast food restaurants have very good marketing strategies that specifically target children and young adults.

“ASU, as an institution, could set up some guidance where only healthy (food) options could be promoted,” she said.

Stephen Chinetti, promotions officer for the exercise and wellness undergraduate organization, said he understands why Wendy’s must promote its business, but he doesn’t agree with the campus giveaway.

“The Baconator is a heart attack on a bun,” Chinetti, an exercise and wellness junior, said. “I definitely wouldn’t eat one, but our club is here to promote wellness, not to tell students what they can and cannot eat.”

Justin Zeien, vice president of the Health and Counseling Student Action Committee, said the club would like to make students aware of the consequences of eating a Baconator.

“We don’t want to attack people who chose to eat the Baconator,” he said.  “We just want them to make an informed choice of whether they want to eat it.”

He said the average person would have to spend more than two hours jogging at an intense pace to burn off the calories and fat contained in one Baconator.

Chapman said giving away the burgers doesn’t pose health risks because samples are limited.

“Health isn’t an issue because we don’t give away hundreds to one person,” she said.  “We give away one or two burgers each.”


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