Please Go Away, McRib

McRib | Photo: The Suss-Man/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If you've read any number of my posts over the past few months, then you're clearly aware that sometimes my eating habits leave a bit to be desired in the "healthy living" department. Sure, I can don a jacket and tie to dine with the elite on expertly-crafted pieces of culinary excellence. But I can also mingle with youths at 2 a.m. in the parking lot of Del Taco. The point is, I'm not a food snob. I find something to love in foods of nearly every kind, from every culture, from every environment.

Except, that is, the McRib. It is a disgusting, hot piece of grossness that needs to be stopped.

The upsettingly rubbery concoction -- which Sarah Miller at Grist perfectly dubs the "sad pig/gym mat sandwich" -- is heading back into McDonald's restaurants on December 17. As usual, the reason behind such a limited and specific release is due to one thing and one thing only: The company's bottom line.

Created in 1981 by "Executive Chef" Rene Arend -- also the man responsible for the dreaded/beloved Chicken McNugget -- the McRib was created simply out of desperation. With a temporary dwindling chicken supply, the fast food giant needed something to sell its customers. Enter: Arend's pork-based McRib, a weird mess of pork products that are kind of molded into boneless ribs, lathered in a cheap watery barbecue sauce, combined with a few soggy pickles and mashed into a bun.

At first, the sandwich was a slow-builder, reception-wise. It did well in Midwest markets (which, of course) but mostly was floundering nationally, popping up sporadically and without warning whenever the brain trust of the golden arches felt like it. It wasn't until 1994 that McDonald's decided to make the McRib a regularly-released national food item, promotionally tying the rib-like material to the live-action version of The Flintstones. Ever since, it's been lying dormant for most of the year before plowing into McDonald's stores every fall as part-tradition/part-greasing the fourth quarter numbers to impress stockholders.

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(The Awl had an amazing piece about theories regarding just why the McRib is released when it is. It is necessary reading.)

This year, the McRib was delayed a few months, due to either: (a) the unseasonably warm weather; (b) the month of October being a down-month, financially-speaking, for the fast food giant, so why play their year-end card so soon? Which reason you believe depends on how conspiratorial you want to get. (Personally, I can't imagine that anyone at Mickey D's thinks that the McRib belongs in the same cold weather treat category as hot cocoa and fire-roasted marshmallows.) In any case, this year's release is a tad late. But fear not, McRib lovers! This year's version will contain all of the same nutrition and food "additives" you've come to expect!

While the McRib has a relatively low calorie count at 500 per sandwich -- relative to the four-digit monsters that Carl's Jr. and Burger King put out, at least -- where the sandwich gets you is the 26 grams of fat, and the 10 grams of saturated fat per dosage. That saturated fat number is 48 percent of your daily recommended allowance. Is that really worth it? But that's not where the fun stops. Because, you see, the McRib has 70 whopping ingredients! Among which is the meat portion, consisting of pig heart, scalded stomach and tripe -- not a bit of rib in the bunch -- and a flour-bleaching agent that's used to make foamed plastics that are in gym/yoga mats. Think about that for a second: When you eat a McRib, you're eating the same chemical ingredients and compounds in those disgusting yoga mats at the gym. And that's on top of the fact that it tastes terrible in the first place.

Which means it's time to ask: Why are we still eating this? Maybe this December, send a Christmas message to McDonald's that it's time to retire this monstrosity once and for all.

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