You know you’re doing something right as a top fast food spot when the entire internet rejoices at the return of one of your occasional menu items — even if it’s only back for a brief stay. McDonald’s stumbled onto something pretty special with the McRib, a sandwich from the quick serve king that causes people to stop what they’re doing and head to the Golden Arches whenever it pops back up on the menu — no matter how long (and slow) that drive thru line might be. So, what’s the deal with the McDonald’s McRib? Why does it cause such a stir, and is it really worthy of all the hype? Is it even really rib meat, and why can’t they just leave it on the menu? You might think you know what’s going on between those buns, but you don’t really know the whole story of the famed McRib. Until now.
Getting a McRib to look like a cute little rack of ribs may seem like sorcery, but its roots are actually as old as the original pig concoctions. The National Pork Producers Council (there really is one) approached University of Nebraska animal science professor Roger Mandigo to come up with a way to make “shaped pork” out of pork trimmings to sell in fast food restaurants — specifically McDonald’s.
Mandigo basically took the sausage making method and revamped it using salts and other additives to hold everything in place. His first concoction was shaped like… a pork chop. McDonald’s wisely asked for something people would actually want on a bun, and requested that the Franken-pork resemble the boneless part of a backrib. And thus, the McRib happened.
You’ve probably heard the tale, the only difference between a McRib and a gym mat is you can’t wrestle on a McRib. The stories floating around the internet are that the McRib shares many of the same ingredients as a gym mat! Turns out that’s not exactly the case.
Lopez Foods Vice President Kevin Nanke says the McRib contains only a few ingredients — meat, salt, dextrose, which is a natural starchy sweetener, and water. There are also a bunch of preservatives — but that’s to be expected because it’s not like they’re grinding and shaping McRibs right at the Mickey D’s down the street. Azodicarbonamide, the offending “gym mat” ingredient, isn’t in the official ingredients McDonald’s rattles off on their website. So don’t sweat the gym mats, it’s not in there.
But let’s play devil’s advocate and say that by some scientific reaction a little azodicarbonamide did end up in the McRib. The FDA says that small amounts are safe. So even if there was the big A-word in there, you’re A-OK to chow down on a McRib.