Every year Mcfoodies wait for those magical words, “The McRib is back,” a sign that McDonald’s will be bringing back the highly sought-after meat-flavored rib sandwich. However, will the McRib return this year or will it fall by the wayside like so many cultural institutions affected by the coronapocalypse?
A Food Born of Necessity Like the leaf blower, the McRib sandwich is another American original. Although the McRib may seem like low-hanging fruit (or sandwiches), it was born out of necessity after McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets proved so popular they caused a chicken shortage. The McDonald’s crew devised the McRib sandwich, giving poultry farmers (not to be confused with former WWF Superstars The Red Rooster or Hillbilly Jim) some much-needed time to harvest more chickens. According to a 2009 Maxim article:
Initially test-marketed in 1981, the McRib was the brainchild of McDonald’s first executive chef, Rene Arend, who’d been plucked from the kitchen of a local luxury hotel and tasked with increasing the franchise’s menu options. Arend’s most industry-altering achievement would prove to be the creation of the Chicken McNugget in 1979.
A Beloved Tradition The McRib sandwich wasn’t an instant hit, but over time, it developed a strong following, becoming a McDonald’s tradition. The McRib is a limited-time menu item and according to marketing professor Alexander Chernev, that’s Mickey D’s intention. Speaking to CNN Finance, the good professor explained:
“When you have these exclusive products, which exist for a short period of time, it gives people a reason to come to the store…“You need consistency because that’s the brand mantra. But no matter how much you like something, consuming something different … increases the enjoyment of what you consumed before.”
Its Questionable Content Like several items on the McDonald’s menu, various conspiracy theories have popped up concerning what exactly goes into the McRib. One of the best-known (and scariest theories) is that the McRib is made from pork rectum. Like any urban legend, Snopes discusses it at length so you can click here to see why the pork rectum story is as credible as anything at Fansided. So, is the McRib some sort of pork product? Is it meat, but not as we know it? According to a fascinating article at Yahoo! Finance, the McRib is what is known as “a restructured meat product”:
Rene Arend came up with the idea and design of the McRib, but it’s a professor from the University of Nebraska named Richard Mandigo who developed the “restructured meat product” that the McRib is actually made of.
According to an article from Chicago magazine, which cites a 1995 article by Mandigo, “restructured meat product” contains a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs.
Tastecooking.com spared no effort in looking into what makes up a McRib, reporting:
According to McDonald’s, McRibs are primarily made of ground boneless pork shoulder emulsified with water, spices, dextrose sugar, and preservatives to refine its flavor and texture. The meat’s smoky flavor comes from liquid smoke, a benign distillate of smoky vapor,
The Public Speaks I decided to talk to people about the McRib. Here’s what Cathy C. had to say about it:
“The McRib is tasty mostly because of the combination of the roll, pickles, meat, and BBQ sauce. There is something a little unnatural about it, though.”
I also spoke with my Irish-Catholic twin Dave who has a strong opinion about the McRib:
“The McRib is like my ex-wife. It shows up once every couple of years, and I’ve learned to deny its requests for attention until it eventually goes away.”
Anton R. added:
“I didn’t know it was possible to recycle used gym mats into fast food, then I tried the McRib.”
A McMust I am pleading with McDonald’s to go ahead and bring the McRib sandwich back this year. Not only is the McRib a cultural institution, but we need it more than ever. If Vince McMahon can run WrestleMania XXXVI, McDonald’s can serve piping hot (more likely room temperature) McRib sandwiches to a socially distanced public.
Using my decades of experience as a journalist I fired off an email to McDonald’s and inquired whether the McRib was coming back this year. Perhaps sensing the dangerous times we live in (as well as my writing for the world’s number one site, Pro Sports Extra), I received a response within less than 24 hours:
Thank you for contacting McDonald’s about our McRib sandwich. Beginning in October, for a limited time, McRib will be available at all participating McDonald’s U.S. restaurants. The amount of time McRib stays in restaurants will vary by market.
We hope this information helps you and look forward to serving you again soon under the Golden Arches. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact us.
I’d like to think my inquiry into the future of the McRib saved the day so remember when you’re enjoying a tasty McRib sandwich who you have to thank for it. Rather than providing daily updates on the McRib’s status, I encourage you to use the McRib Locator.
*Disclaimer: Upon the advice of my attorney, I am not claiming ingesting the McRib sandwich causes coronary problems. (Gastrointestinal problems on the other hand). You may wish to consult a physician before ingesting one or more McRib sandwiches.