Why Iceland Preserved A McDonald's Big Mac From 2009

Iceland is known for many things including the Blue Lagoon, the singer Björk, and the yogurt Skyr. But if you stay at the Snotra House in southern Iceland, you can see one more Icelandic treasure: The last McDonald's Big Mac in the country, perfectly preserved from 2009.

McDonald's operates in 118 areas worldwide, per the company's website, but Iceland is no longer one of them. So why did Iceland preserve a McDonald's meal that was sold in 2009? The story of the old McDonald's burger is one of national pride, international economic collapse, and a man who didn't throw away the trash. 

When the Icelandic prime minister ate at the country's first McDonald's in 1993, it was seen as a symbol of Iceland's move toward greater modernization and globalization, per anthropologist Kristín Loftsdóttir (via Gastro Obscura). However, the global economic crisis of 2008 changed everything for Iceland. To meet corporate regulations, McDonald's ingredients had to be shipped in from Germany, and during the recession, import taxes shot up while the Icelandic króna dropped in value. This meant McDonald's prices would need to increase substantially, which wasn't realistic and forced McDonald's to leave Iceland in 2009.

So how did a hostel in a village of just 79 people come to have the country's perfectly preserved final McDonald's meal on display?

Where to find Iceland's perfectly preserved final McDonald's burger

Iceland preserved a McDonald's burger from 2009 because of the symbolic tie to the fast food chain. Icelanders were disheartened when McDonald's announced its closure because they linked it to being a part of the modernized global economic and cultural stage, per The Reykjavik Grapevine. During the restaurant's final week, the number of customers that flooded the McDonald's was equal to about a third of the island's population.

When homeowner Hjörtur Smárason was cleaning out his garage in 2012, he was surprised to find a McDonald's bag — still full of the food he'd bought three years earlier. He was even more shocked that the burger and fries were in perfect condition.

"This was now like a historical artifact that belonged to Iceland. The last McDonald's burger in Iceland. And what do you do with a historical artifact? You put it in a museum," he said (via Gastro Obscura). The National Museum of Iceland housed the food for a year before it moved to Bus Hostel Reykjavik, where a 24/7 live stream displayed it for the world to see. The burger and fries then moved to the Snotra House, near the island's southern tip, where it can be seen today.

If you're ever in Iceland, you can't feast on a big meal at McDonald's, but you can feast your eyes on the country's last Big Mac that's more than a decade old.