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The Real Reason McRib Keeps Disappearing From The Menu

Get excited! McDonald’s is bringing back your favorite boneless slab of rib-like meat on a bun — the McRib! That’s right, McDonald’s has just announced that as early as October 7th, 2019, the McRib will be triumphantly returning to menus across the country.

If you’re feeling a little cautious with your excitement for the McRib this year, it’s probably because the McRib is just doing what the McRib does. By that, we mean it comes back into your life, gets you all excited that it’s returned, and then poof — it’s gone. So why exactly does McDonald’s keep pulling this yo-yo trick with the McRib year after year?

The McRib last made an appearance on the McDonald’s menu in November of 2018, and there’s really no telling how long it will hang around this time. One thing’s for sure, though — it won’t be forever. This might seem odd, since it’s always a hit at McDonald’s whenever it does come back, and fans are obviously frustrated when it goes away. What you might not notice about those McRib promotions, however, is that they usually end with an ominous phrase: “While supplies last.”

You see, the McRib is made with pork trimmings, and, unlike their more widely available beef counterparts, there’s not necessarily always enough of those cuts of meat to supply an indefinite amount of McRib sandwiches. At least that’s what University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of animal science Roger Mandigo told the Lincoln Star Journal. He explained,

“If you suddenly start to buy a large amount of that material, the price starts to rise.”

So when the price of those tender pork trimmings starts to creep up, McDonald’s simply pulls the McRib from the menu and it’s gone once again. Obviously, people are only going to pay so much for a McDonald’s pork sandwich, but it’s more than the cost of ingredients that results in the McRib fading away year after year. It’s also a clever marketing trick by McDonald’s to create a sense of urgency in customers when it does come back.

If McRibs were available 365 days a year, people might not be as energized about buying it. There certainly wouldn’t be any need for headlines proclaiming its return if it had never gone away. McDonald’s marketing director, Marta Fearon, told the Associated Press as much, admitting,

“Bringing it back every so often adds to the excitement.”

By bringing the McRib back for a limited time, McDonald’s gets a nice sales spike in its financial fourth quarter. This combination of cost control and marketing blends perfectly together to make the McRib a successful product. Which, of course, is key with anything on the McDonald’s menu — but that wasn’t always the case with the McRib. Believe it or not, there was once a time when the McRib didn’t get much hype at all.

When the McRib made its debut way back in 1981, not that many customers were drawn to its “tangy temptation.” It hung on for a few years, but the Golden Arches wasn’t selling enough of the sandwiches and pulled it from the menu in 1985 due to poor sales. McDonald’s tried bringing the McRib back again in 1989, but even then they were doubtful of how long it would last. The fast-food chain’s then-president of marketing, David Green, told the New York Times,

“It’s premature to decide if McRib will stay on the menu or come back as a specialty item.”

McDonald’s tried hyping people up for the McRib again in the early 1990s as part of a promotion for The Flintstones movie, but again, it was more of a cult favorite. The McRib likely has a problem attracting a large fanbase these days because of its boneless rib slab shape and hot dog-like construction, which doesn’t exactly jibe with today’s unprocessed, organic, all-natural foodscape. One McRib hater told The Atlantic,

“It’s a conglomeration of pork waste, as far as I can tell. I saw a dog turn his nose up at a piece of one. That’s all I need to know.”

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