But this week, the world's largest fast-food corporation curiously, and quietly, delayed the return of its popular gooey, tasty pork sandwich for two months, until the indulgent Christmas season. When Americans are busily distracted from fake food matters...
The question occurs to me... in this year of heightened food-awareness and pink-slime outrage, could McDonald's fear the public taking fresh appraisal of their ribless McRib? Of asking, "What exactly IS this heavily slathered, pork-like 'patty" on a fluffy white bun?"
(See Americans Reject Pink Slime Beef, But Six Politicians Still Push It.)
Descriptions of the McRib abound, and include:
- "sauce-drenched pork concoction" and "unnutritious mash" (TheWeek.com)
- "a pressed meat patty made to look like it has bones in it" (FastFoodFacts.com)
- "one of the greater innovations in meat science of the last century" (NPR , 2011)
- "pork trimmings, scientifically squeezed into a boneless rib shape" (NPR, 2012)
- "pseudo-meat" which is "composed of unmarketable parts of the animal " (Chicago magazine)
The McRib is a modern industrial invention, a "structured meat product," which essentially is meat bits held together with salty glue. Roger Mandigo, University of Nebraska Professor of Animal Science, clarified in 1995:
"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."Professor Mandigo boasted to NPR last year that he was tasked, in the 1970s, by the National Pork Producers Council to "create a product with pork trimmings that could be sold to the fast food giant. 'The pork producers wanted to see more pork on the menu, and they were targeting McDonald's,' Mandigo said."
Create "restructured meats" he did, and the rest is industrial food product history. For his profit-rich achievements, Professor Mandigo joined the ranks of luminaries inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. Other inductees include:
- Eldon Roth, Founder of BPI, maker of "finely-textured beef product" dubbed pink slime
- Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame
- Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds
- Frank Perdue, founder of Perdue Farms, which produces "more than 50 million pounds of poultry a week"
- Raymond Townsend, whose engineering firm "became the largest designer and manufacturer of skinning, stuffing and injection machinery for meat, poultry and seafood processors worldwide."
McDonald's lists as ingredients for the McRib Pork Patty: "Pork, water, salt, dextrose, preservatives (BHA, propyl gallate, citric acid)"... which doesn't begin to define what is meant by "pork."
One brave fast-food gourmand, trying to learn more about the ubiquitous McRib, deconstructed one in eight sequential photos, from wrapper-clad to a close-up of a fileted, de-sauced McRib patty. (Look HERE if you must. The final frame is of grayish, lumpy, semi-shiny material. Like mottled cottage cheese.)
Don't get me wrong: I plan to sample a McDonald's McRib next time they appear on the drive-thru menu. I want to know what all the fuss is about.
But I do wonder... wouldn't it be healthier, safer, tastier, and cheaper-by-the-pound to just buy pork ribs at the market, and grill or roast them at home? Those ribs will have bones, at least.