The McDonald’s McRib sandwich, a legendary, limited-edition boneless pork sandwich, shaped to look like a rack of ribs, is back.
But how much do you really know about it?
Here are six surprising, and shocking, things you may not know about one of America’s favorite now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t wonders:
1. Why was the McRib created in the first place?
Rene Arend, McDonald’s first executive chef and inventor of the Chicken McNugget, also a French-trained chef who honed his talents at the Drake Hotel, has explained in interviews that the McNugget was so popular when it was first introduced in 1979 that demand quickly outmatched their chicken supplies. Franchises that didn’t have the Chicken McNugget needed something new to sell, and so Arend went back to the test kitchen, and emerged from it with the McRib.
2. What inspired its creation?
According to Arend, the McRib was inspired by southern BBQ, and was modeled after the barbecue-sauce-slathered pork sandwiches he ate during a visit to Charleston, South Carolina. Arend is credited with coming up the unique shape of the sandwich. The McRib doesn’t have bones, but the meat is patterned after a slab of ribs.
3. What exactly is in a McRib sandwich?
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 articles, the McRib 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. The McRib is made in large processing plants. The pork meat is chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks like a rib back. It’s then flash-frozen. The process from fresh pork to McRib takes about 45 minutes.
Many critics have cited that, as it appears out of the box, the McRib sandwich contains only five basic ingredients: a pork patty, barbecue sauce, pickle slices, onions, and a sesame bun. But this is not the case – the entire McRib sandwich contains about 70 ingredients, including a flour-bleaching agent used in the production of foamed plastics, such as yoga mats.
4. What are the McRib’s real nutrition facts?
The entire sandwich contains 500 calories, 26 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbs, and 980 milligrams of sodium.
5. Why does the sandwich only appear for limited amounts of time?
It’s a marketing strategy, of course. Individual restaurants can actually order the ingredients for the McRib at any time. It’s seems random because the individual restaurants are able to offer the McRib whenever they feel like it. Plus, by limiting the consumer’s access to it, restaurants succeed in creating a cult-like demand for it.
6. Has the McRib really been sued?
Yes. Last November, the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods, the pork supplier of McDonald’s McRib meat, for inhumane treatment of animals. Specifically, there are claims that the meat distributor houses its pigs in unethical farm conditions.
A 2010 undercover investigation by the animal rights group shows pigs crammed into gestation crates covered in blood and baby pigs being tossed into carts like rag dolls (WARNING: the video contains very graphic content).