Recently, McDonalds re-introduced their McRib sandwich (available for a limited time only!). I can’t remember the last time I had one, although if I had to guess, I would say it was somewhere around six years ago.
I always wondered why the McRib would disappear and then come back a random number of years later. ChicagoMag.com recently published an article solving many of the mysteries surrounding the McRib. Turns out, it disappears because the sandwich’s availability eats up the supply of the nation’s pork trimmings.
In what should be a surprise to no one, there are no ribs in the McRib. Rather, the McRib is more like a frankensandwich:
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.
And those lower-valued meat trimmings aren’t always what one would think of as meat. Rather, they’re comprised of things like the heart, tounge and other internal trimming. This is also pretty much how McDonalds makes their Chicken McNuggets.
I agree with the author of the ChicagoMag article- knowing this doesn’t gross me out. In fact, I wish I weren’t so squeamish about eating the non-traditional (to us Americans, but traditional to everywhere else in the world) animal parts. But I think it’s the whole process involved in making the McRib that puts me off.
A few summers ago, inspired by a visit to the Ohio State Fair, I started making porkburgers. I use ground pork (and the guy at the store told me it was freshly ground from pork butt (which is actually the shoulder)), and grill it. And I have to say my version is better than the ones they sell at the fair. And if I ever get the hankering for a McRib, all I have to do is make one of my porkburgers and add some onions and pickles.