This is a story about the key difference between brands that some people fanatically adore, like McDonald's, and other comparable brands--say for example, Subway, which seem to have lost their way.

It's about a longtime McDonald's fan named Don Gorske, who celebrated a unique milestone yesterday, when he ate his 30,000th Big Mac at a McDonald's in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. (This happens to be the same McDonald's he visited when he ate his first Big Mac back in 1972.)

I suspect that means he's been the most loyal McDonald's customer since well before at least half of the people who read this article were born. Heck, even the guy who invented Big Macs, and who died recently at age 98, said he only ate one a week.

It's the pinnacle of marketing and brand-buliding: to have a customer so devoted to your product that he dedicates himself to it for decades, and creates a media story every time he hits another round number.

To understand just how loyal a fan Gorske is, I think we need to break out the calculator.(Or yes, the calculator function on your phone. I'm not that old.)

We should point out two things first: that Gorske already holds the record for having eaten the most Big Macs; he crossed that threshold according to the Guinness people back in October.

And second, he has both "obsessive compulsive disorder and a meticulous memory," according to the FDL Reporter, a local newspaper that marked his milestone.

"While he has managed through the years to preserve and categorize most everything related to his Big Mac obsession, he did lose about 7,000 or so Styrofoam cartons that were damaged in a tornado that blew the soffits off his house on June 2, 1990," the paper reported.

I'll leave that part right there, since the environmental mess described did take place 28 years ago.

But it's an absurd number of Big Macs. To start with, eating 30,000 over 46 years would require eating 652 per year. And that in turn would work out to consuming 1.786 Big Macs every single day since the Nixon administration.

Indeed, Gorske reports that there have only been eight days during which he didn't eat a Big Mac that entire time: once because an intense snowstorm stopped him from reaching McDonald's, for example, and once on the day in 1988 when his mother died.

Also, given that each Big Mac has two 1.6-ounce beef patties, it means Gorske has eaten more than 6,000 pounds of beef, which might work out to (and this is the most grotesque thing I've ever calculated for an article), about 10 cows.

Actually, as bad as that is, over 46 years I thought it might be higher. However, it would also mean 16.89 million calories.

Now age 64, Goerske is a retired prison guard, and he's as into Big Macs as ever.

In fact, after the little ceremony the local Mickey D's held for him, he got a second one to-go: number 30,001.

"Maybe I'll be eating it when I catch myself on the news," he said.