Food

The McRib Is back, but why does it keep leaving the menu anyway?

This last year, the famous McRib made a comeback to give everyone a break from 2020, and people were all about it. From Twitter to TikTok, the McRib had its moment and many were happy to enjoy the sandwich once more or try it for the first time.

This McDonald’s barbecue sandwich hasn’t been available on the menu nationwide since 2012, but since December 2nd people have been able to enjoy it all over the country. However, this made us wonder…

Why is it that the McRib is not just a set menu item? Why does it keep leaving the menu and making comebacks for only a limited time? Considering many people rave about it and crave it when it’s gone, it’s curious that McDonald’s keeps taking it off the menu.

Well, here’s a few things about the McRib to better understand why people love it so much and why it keeps leaving the menu despite this:

What Is a McRib?

The McRib is a McDonald’s branded sandwich and it’s not made with a rack of ribs, or any part thereof, in case you were wondering. Instead, they use a formed patty made from ground boneless pork shoulder, which is combined with spices, water, dextrose sugar, and preservatives. It’s known for its barbecue, smokey flavor, and people seem to really love it. The sandwich consists of a hoagie-style bun, the McRib-shaped patty drenched in barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles. Quite a tasty combination!

McRib Facts

  • It was first introduced to McDonald’s menu in 1981 as a response to a shortage of chicken due to the popularity of McNuggets.
  • It was taken away from the menu in 1985 due to poor sales, and it was brought back in 1989.
  • It stayed on the menu until 2005 in many countries.
  • It’s a permanent item only in Germany and Luxembourg.
  • It has become a pop culture phenomenon and it has a cult following of sorts.
  • It’s inspired by Southern BBQ.
  • It only takes 45 minutes to produce McRib patties.
  • There are 520 calories in the McRib.
  • There was a Golden McRib you found by exploring Google Maps and playing different mini-games.

Why Does It Keep Leaving McDonald’s Menu?

This is the biggest mystery surrounding the McRib. If it’s so good and it makes McDonald’s so much money, why is it a limited-time menu item that’s not even consistently brought back to the menu?

Many people feel like the McRib is brought back based on customer demand. But if that was the case, it would never leave the menu. In reality, there are two different reasons from a business standpoint for which the McRib is not a permanent item. One, the allure of a classic that’s only available for a limited time, and two, the price of the pork shoulder trimmings that make up the patty. Let’s explore each reason individually a little more:

1. The Allure of a Limited-Time Menu Item

One of the reasons why McDonald’s makes the McRib a limited-time menu item is to keep people interested in it and coming back to it. If you think about it, every time the McRib comes back, the news goes viral – websites like this one even print stories about it. More than that, people rave about it on social media, essentially making free advertisements for the sandwich. People all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok share their McRib and talk about how excited they are for the comeback. That’s kind of a genius move from a business and marketing standpoint.

Every time the McRib comes back people are hyped about it, the story is picked up by all news outlets, and people go crazy for it. What’s more, people who have never tried it are pumped up to try it and then they tell their friends about it, bringing even more customers to McDonald’s doors. In other words, there’s an amazing marketing strategy in place here, and if it ain’t broke…well…

If the McRib was always available on the menu, it wouldn’t have the same appeal it has gained precisely because it’s not always there when you want it. Essentially, the McRib plays “hard to get” with people and it works — perfectly. If it was always available, the hype would die down and it wouldn’t make as much financial sense to keep it on the menu. Why? Because of the cost of the pork trimmings used to make the formed patty, which brings us to our second reason.

2. The Price of Pork Shoulder Trimmings

The famous McRib is made with pork trimmings and that’s not a secret — almost everyone knows that by now. The patties are made of ground pork shoulder cuts, specifically, and it’s this ingredient that determines when and for how long this barbecue sandwich will be available on McDonald’s menu. According to meat scientist Roger Mandigo, one of the people who helped invent the sandwich, the reason the McRib used to be the McRib Jr. in 2000 was actually the price of the pork.

Now, the reason the price of pork shoulder trimmings is such a decisive factor on whether or not the McRib is on the menu comes down to basic supply and demand. If McDonald’s starts to purchase a large amount of these pork trimmings, the price will begin to increase and it won’t stop. At some point, it would become too expensive to make the sandwich, so they take it off the menu. So, its success is also its undoing – eventually — too.

The supply of pork shoulder trimmings that are used to make the McRib is not always enough to make an indefinite number of sandwiches, so it makes sense it’s not a fixed menu item like the McChicken sandwich or the Big Mac burger, among other well-known and loved menu options.

Some Final Words

So, it’s easy to understand why it keeps leaving McDonald’s menu. And maybe it’s better that way! You know what they say, too much of a good thing can ruin it, and we can always count on McDonald’s to bring the sandwich back. It’s just a matter of enjoying it while it lasts and being patient until it’s back, back again! 

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