Sally Davies, a New York-based photographer — and decades-long vegetarian — took a McDonald’s Happy Meal home six months ago to see if what she had read online about a school teacher with a 12-year-old McDonald’s burger could possibly be true (spoiler alert: it is). Davies’ friend claimed the food would mold or rot within 2-3 days and that the story of the 12-year-old burger was nothing more than a tall tale.
Davies described it from there to the Huffington Post:
I planned to photograph the decomposing burger every day to monitor the process, and send to my friend! I started a page on Facebook called “McDonalds Happy Meal Project” and also on Flickr posting all the photographs. After a week or two, the photographs were very boring, as nothing was happening. at all. So I only photograph them every week or two after that. Not much has changed since April 10, 2010 on Day one. The top bun is very dry and a small part snapped off. The burger shrank as it dried out, but nothing much else. …
McDonalds says I must have altered the food in some way. I have not.
As Refinery29 wrote when they covered the project at the 137-day mark, “the results are remarkable in the fact that they’re really unremarkable.” The Daily Mail referred to the ”seemingly indestructible fast food meal’s progress as it refuses to yield to the forces of nature.”
The Happy Meal stopped smelling of anything after only a couple days, and the only change that really seemed to occur was that it essentially plasticized. “At six months old, the food is plastic to the touch and has an acrylic sheen to it. The only change that I can see is that it has become hard as a rock,” Davies told the Mail.
Davies, whose art is in the collections of Sarah Jessica Parker, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Dan Ayckroyd, notes that she wasn’t trying to specifically go after McDonald’s and has no reason to believe this phenomenon is exclusive to their food. “Although I used a McDonalds Happy Meal for this project, it could have been any other fast food,” she says. “It just happens that McDonalds is close to where I live.”
What follows is the progression of Davies’ Happy Meal photos, starting with Day One, and ending with the six-month mark at Day 180.