Why Do You People Eat This Stuff?

Welcome to a new irregular feature of grouchyfarmer.com, Why The Hell Do You People Eat This Stuff? (Hopefully a very irregular feature because researching all this stuff takes a lot of work and time and, well, I’m lazy, okay? Can’t help it. It’s — genetic… Yeah, that’s it, it’s genetic. Not my fault, blame my ancestors…)

It’s Back

Hmm? What? Oh, yeah, sorry, got off the track there. Back to the topic. Uh, what was I talking about, anyway? The bloody cats got me up at 4:30 in the morning again to feed ’em and I’m still a bit woozy — Oh, that’s right, It is back, isn’t it? The so-called “McRib”.

Yes, the abomination that is the “McRib” sandwich is once again available at the home of the leering clown. And along with this culinary horror also comes the usual hype and B.S. associated with it. The fast food chain has sent out the usual PR fluff items trying to gin up sales of the thing, launched TV and internet ads, it has an app you can use to find where it’s being sold, it’s even making a big deal out of starting a relationship with Uber to deliver the things. So let’s take a look at it.

First of all, just what the hell is it, anyway? If you deconstruct a McRib, take that patty off the bun, pick off the onions and pickles and wash off the corn syrup they laughingly claim is BBQ sauce, what you have is, well, it’s just nasty looking, but ignore that for the moment and just look at that piece of meat.

Now I’ve been a farmer, and I’ve worked on farms on and off for decades, and frankly, I don’t know what that thing is. That didn’t come off of any animal I ever saw. That’s because it is something called a “restructured meat product”. And before you ask “what the hell is a restructured meat product, I’ll let the inventor of the process, Roger Mandigo, a meat scientist from Nebraska and member of the “Meat Hall Of Fame” (yeah, seriously, there is a meat hall of fame), tell you in his own words in an interview in 1995:

“Restructured meat products are commonly manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by comminution (flaking, chunking, grinding, chopping or slicing). The comminuted meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins. These extracted proteins are critical to produce a “glue” which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a “meat log” of specific form or shape. The log is then cut into steaks or chops which, when cooked, are similar in appearance and texture to their intact muscle counterparts.”

So basically the McRib is, well, kind of sausage, really. (Trivia Tidbit: It was originally going to be a boneless pork chop)

Now what’s actually in that sausage is a matter of hot debate out on the internet. And the internet being what it is, some of the notions about what’s in it are, well, frankly too disgusting to go into in detail. But let me assure you that there is nothing nasty in that meat. Seriously. What it’s really made out of is ground up pork shoulder, and pork shoulder is a perfectly fine piece of meat.

But it isn’t, well, a rib, now is it? There is absolutely no actual rib meat in the thing. It’s more of a “McPorkShoulder” sandwich if they were honest about it.

So, how in the world do they get away with calling a hunk of pork sausage that has no rib meat of any kind, a “McRib”? Isn’t that blatantly mislabeling the product? I have no idea how they get away with it. If you want to know that, you need to go have a little chat with the FDA or FTC or USDA. Maybe it’s a menu naming thing. Calling it what it really is, a “McGroundPorkShoulder Sausage Extruded Into a Vaguely Rib Shaped Patty That Doesn’t Have Any Rib Meat In It At All” wouldn’t fit on the menu board.

Now, the sauce… Oh, dear lord, the sauce… Basically it’s corn syrup with a bit of tomato thrown in, some spices, a lot of vinegar and some smoke flavoring.

The whole thing from start to finish is a fraud misleading. It isn’t made from ribs. It isn’t even a cut of meat. It’s a sausage dipped in flavored corn syrup.

And if you think the sandwich is a bit iffy, take a look at all of the hype and hysteria you see in the media about the thing because that’s even more questionable than the sandwich is. If you believe the press releases McD and it’s advertising agencies put out, people are absolutely wild for this thing, will drive cross country to get one, and when it isn’t on the menu they pine away, wasting away into nothing like crazed drug addicts until it shows up again and…

And it’s all BS. All of it. If people were actually that wild about the thing, the chain would have it on the menu all the time because, well, money. The fact of the matter is that when it was first introduced in the 1980s, sales were horrible. People just didn’t like the thing. It was pulled off the menu in 1985 because sales were terrible. Outside of a few regional areas, it just didn’t sell. (For some reason it sells well in Germany.)

They kept trying, though, for some reason. The chain tried promotional events for it, limited runs, various marketing schemes, etc. It tried to tie it to the Flintstones movie in 1994. Sales “did not meet expectations”, as they say. And finally in 2005 the chain seemed it was finally going to give up on the thing entirely and dump it once and for all and announced it was going away forever.

And then something rather odd happened. An on-line petition popped up to save the sandwich. It was all rather tongue-in-cheek and silly, almost satirical. Other websites started petitions to keep it. The chain announced a “farewell tour” of the product, and gradually the petitions and news stories about demand for the sandwich started appearing in the media. News media that really should have known better started finding people who were desperate, or claimed they were, to “save” their favorite sandwich, and the hype drove sales up. A second “farewell tour” was launched the following year with even more hype being generated and…

Well, it was all a marketing scam. The on-line petitions were, for the most part, outright frauds. The original website with the petition turned out to be owned by the company. Most of the media stories about demand for the sandwich were also misleading. A lot of the “news stories” were actually supplied by the advertising company running the campaign. There were no huge numbers of people clamoring for the sandwich to remain on the menu.

Now, every fall, the cycle repeats. The McRib is brought back with the accompanying hysteria, all of it generated by the company’s PR firms. You’ll see the same headlines, the same stories, appearing year after year because they just keep recycling the same press releases.

Look, there’s nothing actually horrible about the sandwich. Yes, it has way, way too much salt. The BBQ sauce is mostly corn syrup. The bun is your standard, generic, mass produced bread like substance. It is edible. Personally I think it tastes horrible. I bought one the other day to do research for this. I took one bite and, well, the rest went into the trash bin. But if you like it, fine. It’s no worse than anything else on their menu over there.

What really upsets me is the blatant manipulation of people by this whole marketing campaign of theirs. All of this hype, the phony demand for the sandwich, the people who are “addicted” to it, the long lines, the frantic searches to find it — it’s all a PR stunt, it’s all deliberate manipulation of people in order to sell a product no one needs and almost no one actually wants. And that, in my opinion, is the worst part of all of this.

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

10 thoughts on “Why Do You People Eat This Stuff?”

  1. I can proudly say I haven’t been to McDonald’s in months. (I wonder if they own pharmaceutical stock) Glucophage and insulin should just be food additives at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit I will go there once in a while mostly for their fish sandwiches. I also have to admit that their coffee is fairly decent as well. But as for the rest of the menu, well, they can keep it. Their food doesn’t really taste very good and isn’t really all that cheap, either, at least not for the speciality items.

      But holy cow, the salt in that stuff! Some of those sandwiches have more than half of the recommended daily allowance for sodium. And the calories? I think that one meal I was looking at when I was in there was 1,800 calories. Good grief. Yeah, they should be giving out insulin, along with blood pressure meds and probably statins free with every meal.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It is getting crazy, isn’t it? It isn’t just McD’s, either. When we go out to just about any restaurant for dinner we find ourselves confronted with about 3 times more food than either my wife or I can possibly eat. Portion sizes have gotten absolutely ridiculous. We’ve gone to places where I would be willing to bet there was 3,000+ calories worth of food on the plates that were brought out to us. I used to think it was a Wisconsin thing but I’ve traveled a lot in the last 15 years or so and it seems to be universal. There was one place in S.D., think it was the Red Rock, where I found myself confronted with a burrito that was literally as long and as thick as my forearm. There was enough meat and beans and cheese there to feed a whole family of 4. It was really, really good, but why so much?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I mean I suppose it is edible. And there are people I work with who LOVE it. But their taste buds have always struck me as being maimed in some way.
    Still I think a good solid argument could be made for INedible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s nothing actually horrible or nasty in it. But I just don’t know why anyone would want to eat one. I can’t stand the flavor, the texture . But if they like it, they like it. I have to admit that I do like their fish sandwich and I know a lot of people who ate those.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I know what you mean. I actually doubt there is anything healthy about the fish sandwich over there. I think my addiction to them is more nostalgia, a reminder of the incredibly bad “fish fingers” my mother used to serve on Fridays or during Lent when I was a kid.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not so much against eating meat as I am against the way it is produced, and it’s products like the McRib that more or less make my case for me. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for over 30 years. And if you’re not a vegetarian, this kind of stuff might turn you into one!

    It’s true that a lot of these online petitions and seemingly “grassroots” efforts to resurrect old products are actually astroturf marketing scams run by corporations. I’m on the fence about the ethical merit of these projects. They create a demand where none exists, but isn’t that the point of ANY marketing initiative?

    You gotta give it to them. They will probably sell several million of these sandwiches during the “limited run”. Add in the drinks and fries and extras (after all, no one buys just a sandwich, right?), and the profit will be huge. I don’t know if I should resent them or respect them. I tend towards the latter. After all, I’m a business-minded guy. And sandwich sellers are running a business that would not be there but for demand for the products. If people show up to buy the product, then the demand isn’t fake even if the methods used to sell the product (and even the product itself) are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I went vegetarian for a year or two but it was so awkward at family gatherings, special events and things like that that I slipped back into eating meat. My biggest issue with the whole meat industry is, as you point out, how the animals are raised and cared for. I still try to avoid it as much as I can.

      These astroturf campaigns have always been with us, and the internet has made it a lot easier to manipulate people with these fake grassroots movements. There’s no doubt they are effective. They still strike me as being unethical, though. Which is probably why I was a horrible salesman when I used to sell computers in the 1980s.


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