The Real Reason McDonald's Doesn't Call Its Shakes 'Milkshakes'

If you're looking for something thick, cold, smooth, and sweet to drink and you happen to be close to McDonald's — may we suggest you don't drop by and order a milkshake, because there are none to be had. 

Instead, the thick, ice-cream based drinks served at McDonald's are simply known as "shakes," but the fast food giant didn't drop the word "milk" because the product is dairy-free. "Our shakes contain milk from our reduced-fat, soft serve, which makes them thick and creamy," a McDonald's rep told Business Insider. "Dairy regulations actually vary from state to state on what can officially be called a 'milkshake.' We like to keep it simple and refer to them strictly as 'shakes.'" 

For instance, Reader's Digest says that in Connecticut, a milkshake has to have between 3.25 to six percent of milk fat. In South Dakota, milkshakes should have between two to seven percent of milk fat. It seems McDonald's really cares about accuracy!

So what exactly is in McDonald's shakes?

All of McDonald's shakes are made with a combination of its soft serve ice cream, vanilla shake syrup, and whipped cream. Its soft serve ice cream, which CNBC says is the main ingredient for more than 60 percent of its desserts, underwent an ingredient overhaul in 2017, to shed all artificial ingredients. 

Today, McDonald's soft serve is made with milk, sugar, cream, corn syrup, natural flavor, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, guar gum, carrageenan, and Vitamin A palmitate. The most notable change to this list is the absence of sodium phosphate and disodium phosphate, which used to be in McDonald's old vanilla ice cream mix, and which Eat This, Not that says are preservatives used in meats so that they stay tender. Aside from changing its soft serve mix, McDonald's has also tweaked both its chocolate and strawberry shake syrups so they aren't made with high fructose corn syrups anymore. 

Good news for McDonald's shake fans for sure. But were we really ordering shakes for the nutritional content?