The Elusive McRib is Back, Baby

A mythical sandwich awakens from its semi-regular slumber.

By Ethan L. Johns
November 03, 2017

Image: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Every now and again, the American populace is graced with the return of a special saucy sandwich. What is it? They say it’s pork, but the country is still on the fence. That’s right, the McRib is back.

The McRib, originally launched by McDonald’s in 1982 before being discontinued three years later, has landed once again in select McDonald’s locations for a limited time. The McRib is a pork patty that has been mixed with preservatives and fashioned into the shape of a portion of short ribs, before being sauced with tangy BBQ, covered with pickles and onions and wedged inside a long roll. Fans can locate participating McDonald’s restaurants using the McRib Finder app for iOS and Android, or they can order it using UberEATS.

Though the sandwich is a cult classic, it has not been without controversy. The hypothesis that the McRib was a way of profiteering from arbitrage—in simple terms, buying cheap commodity meat at moments when the pork industry needs to unload commodity meat—was widely circulated after it was published by The Awl in 2011. Faced with this and other customer questions, McDonald’s enlisted Mythbuster Grant Imahara to take a Mickey D's nonbeliever to the place where the McRib is made. Once the doubter saw that it was made from real meat, his mind was changed.

But in the end, according to advertisers, the McRib is really just a buzzy way to get customers in the door.

"It's not a mass play year-round," DDB Chicago CEO Peter McGuinness told Business Insider in 2012, meaning that people don’t really buy the thing (aside from those who are obsessed with it). Instead, it’s "a great piece of buzzy news that surprises and delights, late in the year on the marketing calendar."

The McRib goeth, so that it may returneth with hype. While it’s here, does anybody want to be my McRib buddy?

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns