The McRib Is Back at McDonald's for the 'Last' Time

By: Jeremy Glass  | 
McRib
Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese ... oh wait. Wrong sandwich. The McRib is seasoned, boneless pork slathered in smoky, tangy barbecue sauce, topped with slivered onions and tart pickles. Mmm. McDonald's

It's a McRib world, and we're all just livin' in it. Much like the first snow of the season or spring break, McDonald's release of cult-favorite McRib is something a lot of people get behind. Keyword: a lot. And the good news is fans can line up to get one starting Oct. 31, 2022. But there's bad news this year. Just like clockwork, McDonald's will pull the sandwich off the menu faster than fans can say McRib. However, the fast-food giant says, this will be the McRib's "Farewell Tour."

Really McDonald's? A farewell tour for the McRib? Kind of like Motley Crue's 2015 Final Tour? Or Cher's or Tina Turner's or the Spice Girls' or the Eagles' or so many other farewell tours that weren't farewells? Assuming the McRib is about to take its final bow, we're here to pay homage to the sandwich that has come and gone for more than 40 years.

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What Is the McRib?

For those who like to know what they're eating before they, well, eat it — the McRib is nothing short of a mystery. It was created 41 years ago in 1981 by McDonald's first executive chef, René Arend, who also developed those famous Chicken McNuggets as a means to combat a chicken shortage.

"The McNuggets were so well received that every franchise wanted them," Arend told Maxim magazine in a 2009 interview. "There wasn't a system to supply enough chicken. We had to come up with something to give the other franchises as a new product."

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After a year of test-marketing, that first McRib appeared in McDonald's stores in 1982. Despite the cultlike appreciation for the sandwich, the McRib was actually considered a failure. Even with support throughout the Midwest, McDonald's discontinued the McRib in 1985, citing a lack of pork eaters in the United States.

Then it made a major comeback in 1994 as a promotional tie-in to "The Flintstones" movie. Naturally, the sudden popularity and support for the McRib sparked a movement to restock select stores across the U.S. and Canada. But just as it reappeared, the McRib disappeared again in 2005. McDonald's even planned a "McRib Farewell Tour" (shocking, right?) featuring an online "Save the McRib" campaign.

So all this begs the question: What exactly is the McRib? McDonald's describes the contents of the famed sandwich as "seasoned, boneless pork slathered in smoky, tangy barbecue sauce, topped with slivered onions and tart pickles," but that's just marketing. We do know one thing: It's not pork rib meat. It's mostly meat from the pork shoulder.

It's called restructured meat, and the food processing technique was created by the U.S. Army in the 1960s to lower its food costs. These new meats were added to MREs for troops. So essentially, the McRib is made of pig parts (including boneless pork picnic shoulder) pressed into the iconic McRib shape with some barbecue sauce added for flavor.

McDonald's did allow the late Grant Imahara, former co-host of the show "MythBusters," behind the scenes in 2014 with Virginia teacher Wes Bellamy. Bellamy's tweet about how unappetizing the meat looked caught McDonald's attention.

The two watched as the pork meat was processed and pressed into shape, and then flash-frozen to be shipped to restaurants. In the video, Kevin Nanke, vice president of McDonald's U.S. pork supplier Lopez Foods, says the only ingredients in a McRib are pork, water, dextrose and preservatives to "lock in the flavor."

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The McRib Farewell Tour

There must be something about that flavor, because 40-plus years is a pretty long time for McDonald's to be serving up this love-it or hate-it sandwich.

Now back to the McRib Farewell Tour. The McRib's, like most others, comes complete with fan merch. McStans can show their love for the sandwich via clothes, art and other "McRib memorabilia." The merch goes on sale Nov. 4, 2022, at 11 a.m. ET at GoldenArchesUnlimited.com.

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So, if you want to get your hands on a McRib or its farewell merchandise, do it soon because this time we don't know if it's really coming back (don't we though?). Of course, that's all in the "McPlan." Create a demand for a seasonal item and the diners will come.

McRib farewell tour
McDonald's says fans of the McRib have just one more chance to get the iconic sandwich starting Oct. 31.
McDonald's

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Originally Published: Nov 5, 2020

McRib FAQ

Is the McRib back at McDonald's?
McDonald's last brought the McRib back in November 2021.
Why is the McRib seasonal?
The McRib is seasonal because its limited availability increases demand. By offering the McRib sporadically, McDonald's is able to generate interest and increased motivation each time the McRib is re-released.
What month does the McRib come out?
McDonald's changes the McRib's availability each time it returns to the fast food restaurant's menu. It's rarely released at the same time or within the same month when it becomes available again.
Why was the McRib discontinued?
Originally, when the McRib was first unveiled in 1981, it didn't sell well. In fact, it performed so poorly it was removed from the menu completely in 1985. It wasn't until it returned in 1994 that it became a recurring seasonal addition popular with customers.
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