While writing this column celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Big Mac, it occurred to me that I've never eaten one. Not that I have any vendetta against fast food; I just tend to think small when it comes to burgers.

What's in a Big Mac? The 1974 jingle, "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun" became one of those commercials people can't get out of their heads.

The "Big Mac Attack," launched in 1977, was another memorable ad campaign.

Although McDonald's was around in the 1950s, the Big Mac didn't debut until 1967, at McDonald's restaurants in Uniontown, Pa. It was launched nationally a year later. According to a company fact sheet, it was the brainchild of Jim Delligatti, a Pittsburgh franchisee, who believed the company needed a product geared toward adults.

The original price of a Big Mac was 49 cents. Today it's around $3, depending on the store. That might sound like a big jump until you consider what per-hour salaries were back in 1968. In my first job out of high school in 1973, I made a whopping $2.32 an hour.

Burger King's Whopper was invented earlier, in 1957. But it's the Big Mac that always seems to get the standard of comparison when people talk fast food, fat or calories. "That salad has more calories than a Big Mac," for instance, or "I could eat two Big Macs."

The Whopper weighs in at 670 calories, while the Big Mac is 540 calories, according to the companies' nutrition data. But the Big Mac is smaller, 214 grams versus 290 grams. When compared ounce for ounce, the Whopper contains fewer calories.

A U.S.-made Big Mac also gives you 29 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,040 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber and 25 grams of protein.

By the way, if you forgo that special sauce, you will save 90 calories and 9 grams of fat. Atkins and South Beach dieters are probably well aware that most of the carbs (39 grams) and 210 of the calories are in the bun.

By comparison, a regular cheeseburger is 300 calories and 12 grams total fat. But there's no special sauce.

Here are some other Big Mac facts:

• Big Macs are now sold in more than 100 countries worldwide, so they're hardly small potatoes (or small fries, for that matter).

• There are an average of 178 sesame seeds on a Big Mac bun.

• The Economist's Big Mac Index checks prices around the world.

• According to McDonald's company data, more than 500 million Big Macs are sold each year in America alone.

• In 1970, Advertising Age named McDonald's Big Mac Ballad (sung to the tune of "16 Tons") as one of the 100 best TV commercials for 1969.

• McDonald's is celebrating its 40th anniversary by opening of the Big Mac Museum Restaurant in North Huntingdon, Pa., and sponsoring a Big Mac Cant-Off Casting Call contest.

• The Economist Magazine publishes the Big Mac Index to annually contrast the value of foreign currencies against the U.S. dollar.

• In 1998, Irwindale, Calif., became the "Big Mac Capital" of America when research discovered that residents of Irwindale eat 337 Big Mac sandwiches per capita per year.


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