Why is the McRib Sandwich only a temporary item at McDonald’s?

If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that I love me a Big Mac. And a quarter pounder with cheese. And McDonald’s fries are like crack. But, since I’m trying to eat healthier, I don’t eat them much at all anymore.

One thing I’ve never even felt tempted to try, though, is the McRib sandwich. That thing looks vile. But, evidently, some people love it. I even dated one of them in college. So why is the McRib not a permanent staple? Kevin Drum highlights a post by Willey Staley with a pretty convincing theory:

Basically, Staley thinks that McDonald’s sells the McRib only when pork prices are low:

The theory that the McRib’s elusiveness is a direct result of the vagaries of the cash price for hog meat in the States is simple: in this thinking, the product is only introduced when pork prices are low enough to ensure McDonald’s can turn a profit on the product…

[T]ake a look at this sloppy chart I’ve taken the liberty of making. The blue line is the price of hogs in America over the last decade, and the black lines represent approximate times when McDonald’s has reintroduced the McRib, nationwide or taken it on an almost-nationwide “Farewell Tour” (McD’s has been promising to get rid of the product for years now).

Key: 1. November 2005 Farewell Tour; 2. November 2006 Farewell Tour II; 3. Late October 2007 Farewell Tour III; 4. October 2008 Reintroduction; 5. November 2010 Reintroduction.

The whole post is worth reading.

My favorite part of all of this is imagining the McRib department at corporate headquarters watching the price of pork fluctuate, desperately waiting for it to dip low enough that they can set off the McRib Signal, alerting the franchises that it’s time to get BBQing!

And, for the record, this is a 500 calorie sandwich, with nearly half the calories coming from fat. In fact, it has 26g of fat (40% DV), 10g saturated fat (48% DV), and 980 mg of sodium (41% DV). That’s without the fries.

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