"Where's the beef?" may not be the most accurate phrase, but it's the first that comes to mind.

Seriously, that's the only thought I could come up with in the face of this news: McDonald's is swapping out the red in its logo for "a deep hunter green" to tout its environmental credentials in Europe.

From an Associated Press article by Mary MacPherson Lane:

About 100 German McDonald's restaurants will make the change by the end of 2009, the company said in a statement Monday. Some franchises in Great Britain and France have already started using the new color scheme behind their Golden Arches.

"This is not only a German initiative but a Europe-wide initiative," Martin Nowicki, McDonald's Germany spokesman, told The Associated Press. [...]

The company has warmed to "greener" practices, including environmentally friendly refrigeration and converting used oil into biodiesel fuel.

"With this new appearance we want to clarify our responsibility for the preservation of natural resources. In the future we will put an even larger focus on that," Hoger Beek, vice chairman of McDonald's Germany, said in the statement.

Leaving aside the fundamental unsustainability of the fast food industry as a whole, this is not to say that there is nothing behind McDonald's claims of environmental action -- the company is working on green buildings, electric vehicles and published a report earlier this year highlighting its best green efforts.

That said, this strategy is essentially the textbook definition of greenwashing: Promoting green in the abstract, literally re-painting your signage with the color green, while simultaneously making sparse, vague claims about environmental action.

Not surprisingly, the news has made the rounds on the internet, but no word yet from McDonald's HQ or even McDonald's Europe about explaining the thinking behind this decidedly half-baked idea...