What was for Lévi-Strauss a symbol of cultural homogenisation has paradoxically been elevated to the status of an Australian icon: the beetroot has come to be recognised as the distinguishing ingredient of the classic Australian milkbar hamburger. At the same time, this unassuming vegetable has been implicated in recent debates about globalisation and culture following the launch of the McOz by global fast-food chain McDonald’s in 1998 (Dale, 1999:19). For many, the golden arches of McDonald’s are the quintessential symbol of all that is bad about globalisation – mass-produced culture and economic domination by multinational corporations. However, the case of the beetroot in the McOz reveals some interesting ambivalences inherent in processes of globalisation.
While sales of the McOz are contributing to the profits of a foreign company, the ingredients for the burger are locally produced and frequently also exported (McDonald’s Australia, 2001).1 Indeed for a short time, the McOz was withdrawn from sale because the company was unable to source enough Australian beetroot; yet within a few months, it was able to arrange for enough local producers to grow beetroot for the
1 Likewise in 1998, Austrian McDonald’s patrons were treated to a taste of ‘Australian culture’ with the launch of the “Ayers Mäc” as part of a limited edition series of burgers representing seven wonders of the world.
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McOz to return triumphant (Dale, 1999:20). On the one hand, the purveyors of the McOz have surely contributed to the demise of the traditional Aussie milkbar, which was once the small-business equivalent of the Australian “independence ideal” (Capling et al, 1998:117). On the other hand, McDonald’s – or Macca’s, as it is called in Australia by many a Shazza and Dazza – has delivered a challenge to the charge of unmitigated global homogenisation by promoting products that have a strong cultural resonance for local markets. But now that...