When Are Cheap Eats Too Cheap?

A story on DailyFinance explores a Burger King lawsuit that peels back the cloak that covers the true structure of the fast food business. It's a look at the complex back-and-forth between franchisees and corporate HQ, and the massively subsidized ingredients that make the whole enterprise economically sustainable. Or unsustainable, as the case may be.

The lawsuit, by an association representing about 75 percent of Burger King franchisees, is proceeding to trial. DailyFinance writes:

"When the parent corporation added the double cheeseburger to that dollar menu in 2009, the National Franchise Association, which represents about 75% of Burger King franchisees, sued. Apparently, double cheeseburgers cost more than $1 to produce (another fact consumers probably appreciate: What could the double cheeseburger possibly be made of to cost less than $1 to produce?)."

So, in the era of the $2 Taco Bell meal deal and the increasingly aggressive dollar menu concept at a number of different restaurants, there is, apparently a breaking point. That point being the $1 double cheeseburger.

Beyond the internal health of Burger King, the lawsuit re-raises an ugly and longstanding question about what, exactly, is going on with the American fast food industry that someone could even begin to think about charging a dollar for a double cheeseburger in the first place? A cow died and was processed*; buns were baked; everything was shipped, cooked, reassembled, served, and money was taken in and then accounted for. There's probably a paper wrapper and condiments. It's gotta be more than a buck. You'd hope it would be more than two.

*Or, more typically, many cows died and many of their bits were processed and combined.

Image source: CHOW.com