How the McRib is Made Makes Us Question Its Popularity

By Margaret Badore -

The McRib sandwich from McDonald's is a strange product of the food science world: mystery pork ground and molded to look like fake ribs, served on a starchy white bun and drenched in sauce. The restaurant must recognize the absurdity of this, as they created the "Boneless Pig Farmers Association of America" spoof. Now, they're running a campaign encouraging customers to enter a video with a "legendary" creation story of the McRib sandwich. Any food that needs a creation story... well... that speaks for itself. The winner will receive $10,000 dollars and a trip to Germany. The fact that McDonald's is making fun of the nebulous origins of its food is borderline offensive to anyone who would like there to be more transparency in our food chain and supply.

So, without imagining where the McRib came from, we'll tell you where it actually comes from. It starts at an enormous factory farm. There's a giant shed with a floor covered in feces, where tens of thousands of pigs will be born without ever having enough space to turn around and most will never see the light of day. It's important to remember that unlike a chicken, a pig has fairly advanced mental capacities, much like a pet dog. Because these pigs live in such confined space, they can develop bizarre behaviors due to stress. The animals, removed from their mothers shortly after birth, nibble on one another's tails because they are not allowed to wean. The pig having its tail nibbled is too apathetic to fight or object, but the chewed tails are likely to be infected. The solution? All the pig tails are removed at birth. We'll spare you a description of the horrific slaughter, where up to 1,100 pigs per hour are killed, according to PETA.

Now, consider the meat itself. Is it really meat from the rib? No. "Primar­ily, it's shoulder meat," explains Rob Cannell, director of McDonald's U.S. supply chain in a 2009 interview. "The McRib is made in large processing plants-lots of stainless steel, a number of production lines, and these long cryogenic freezers. The pork meat is chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks like a rib back. Then we flash-freeze it. The whole process from fresh pork to frozen McRib takes about 45 minutes." mcrib-meatmcrib-meat

Translation: mechanically separated meat. Remember the pink goo chicken nuggets are made from? This is the pork version. Just check out this photo of the grayish meat inside the "rib patty" snapped by the team at The texture looks like something that's been chewed up and spit out.

Finally, the nutrition info, which of course you can find via McDonald's website, albeit buried in a PDF. A single McRib sandwich contains 490 calories, 220 calories from fat. The sauce contains high fructose corn syrup. In addition to pork, the "McRib patty" also contains salt, dextrose, citric acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, a synthetic antioxidant used as a preservative that keeps food from interacting with oxygen avoiding degradation and the American Cancer Society recognizes it as a "reasonably anticipated human carcinogen," and TBHQ, debated as a carcinogen, it's a synthetic antioxidant that prevents fats and oils from spoiling.

Also Read:

Chicken Nuggets: Made from Pink Goo

What Keeps a McDonald's Burger from Rotting

More about factory farms in The Omnivore's Dilemma