Ah, the McRib. Where does one begin to describe this elusive foray by Mcdonald’s into the world of “pork”?
The McRib made its debut here in the States way back in 1981. Up to the present, Americans seem to have a love/hate relationship with this boneless wonder. That probably accounts for the on again/off again presence in McDonald’s industry lore. Just when one thinks it might be gone forever McDonald's seems to go into nostalgia mode and reintroduces it to the American public with much fanfare and little warning about what's really in it. Actually, it probably has more to do with the timing of pork prices since research indicates that McDonald’s frequently unleashes the McRib when pork prices are relatively low and they can expect to make more of a profit.
The McRib itself was “invented” by McDonald’s first Executive Chef, one Rene Arend. This was the same person who was also responsible for introducing those famous Chicken McNuggets that we’ve all grown to know and love and scarf down in vast quantities. In fact, it was the McNuggets popularity that helped inspire the McRib. It seems that the McNugget eating public was consuming them at such a fast and furious pace that there was a brief period of chicken shortages throughout the McDonald’s empire. In order to fill the gap, some creative thinking was needed and since pigs were in abundance the idea of the McRib was born.
In keeping with McDonald’s fine tradition the McRib has absolutely nothing to do with anything that closely resembles a pork rib. The meat, if you can call it that, consists mostly of pork shoulder and a bunch of what is known as “restructured meat products”. This seemed like a rather nebulous term to yours truly so I decided to do some digging around and discovered that it refers to such mouth watering delicacies as pig tripe, pig heart and pig stomach. All of those things are then blended with a combination of salt and water to extract the protein that they contain. When you combine all of that stuff with some meat glue and a machine that presses them into patties, presto, there’s your finished product.
All in all the McRib contains an astounding number of ingredients. Seventy of them to be precise. According to Chicago Magazine, the bun itself is responsible for thirty four of them. One of them called azodicarbonamide is "a flour-bleaching agent most commonly used in the manufacturing of foamed plastics like gym mats and the soles of shoes."
After reading that, I can feel my mouth watering and hear my stomach rumble as I write this.
The McRib itself is only considered complete when you add some onions, slather on some barbecue sauce and drop on a pickle or two.
On a personal note, I’ve had a few run ins with the McRib over the years. Most of them involved the over consumption of alcohol and feats of derring-do that described my earlier years. If memory serves, I’m guessing that the last time I tried one was back in 1994.
I’m still trying to get the taste out of my mouth.