Unravelling the mystery of the McRib
McRib: Salty snack, cultural icon, and commodities market boon
CHRIS SELLEY | April 9, 2008 |
Behold, the McRib: pickles, onions and barbecue sauce atop a rectangular boneless pork patty with rib-shaped protrusions, served up on a "homestyle bun." It is, arguably, a ridiculous product. But it's back at Canadian McDonald's locations for the first time in more than a decade — reprising its curious popularity.
First introduced in the early 1980s, McRib has become a minor cultural icon. Satirical website The Onion has described it as a "seminal, groundbreaking" sandwich that made "waves in the fast-food underground" of the late '80s. As NATO bombs rained down on Belgrade in 1999, thus ruining Thomas Friedman's theory that no two countries with a McDonald's location would ever go to war, Salon's James Poniewozik argued that access to McRib was the real guarantee of peace. And in a 2003 episode of The Simpsons, Homer abandoned his job and family to travel America in search of Krusty Burger's elusive Ribwich. McDonald's American marketing department embraced the idea, launching a series of "McRib Farewell Tours" and creating the "Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America" website.
But McRib is big business, too. News of an impending rollout helped spark a rally in pork futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And McDonald's Canada spokesman Louis Payette says current sales in Canada are 60 per cent above anticipated. Still, he gives it little hope of a permanent gig. Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen's University, suggests that while McRib has a "high novelty factor," there may be "no sustainable demand for it" and limited room for growth. As such, Payette suggests you "run and not walk" to your nearest golden arches if you want to catch McRib before it disappears again. At 1,160 calories, 49 grams of fat and 1,130 mg of sodium with fries and a Coke, you might want to run home too.