The Real Reason Why the McRib Never Stays on the McDonald’s Menu For Long

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: McDonald's)

The McRib is coming back! Yet again!

Fans of the limited edition burger have begun spotting advertising for this delicious treat in the wild again, as we enter yet another wondrous season of tasty barbecue goodness.

But here’s a question – why does McDonald’s always take this thing away from us for most of the year? Considering the popularity of the McRib, one would think that the restaurant chain would be eager to sell the burger all year round in order to maximize profits.

According to Foodbeast, there’s a really good reason why we don’t get to see the McRib more often – or, more accurately, there are two good reasons.

The McDonald’s company approach to the McRib comes down to two factors: firstly, the alluring power of a limited edition, and second, the fluctuating cost of tasty pork trimmings.

The science of McDonald’s limited edition burgers is keenly understood. By making the McRib a rare event on the restaurant’s calendar, MrDonald’s can drive customers to the store at certain times of the year in order to artificially boost interest.

If the McRib was around all year long, it would become mundane and familiar. Limiting it means that people eagerly debate the burger every time it comes back to stores, and that, McDonald’s believes, offsets the loss of earnings that comes from not stocking the meal more often.

This, of course, isn’t a very customer-friendly practice. It’s the same logic that caused the recent Szechuan sauce debacle that McDonald’s executives profited from recently, and nobody involved at the street level had any fun with that little disaster.

That said, there has been some evidence that McDonald’s is realizing that artificially limiting stock isn’t actually a good idea. All-day breakfasts have been introduced to try and curb the business lost from arbitrarily limiting what food is available at what times, so there is a hope that McDonald’s might grow out of trying to psychologize all of its customers.

The second issue surrounding the McRib doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon. McDonald’s has to buy some pretty expensive meat in order to make the burger a reality – pork trimmings are fatty, flavorful cuts that are somewhat scarce, and McDonald’s needs a lot of them in order to make their McRibs.

Because these cuts are rare, when McDonald’s starts buying them in bulk, the price naturally rises, and the longer the McRib is available, the more expensive the burger becomes to make.

Thus, McDonald’s keeps the McRib to a small, limited release window in order to avoid the price getting too unreasonable, meaning that customers can only enjoy the burger for a short time.

Of course, if McDonald’s were to buy pork trimmings all year round, the market would correct itself based on the new demand, and the trimmings would get cheaper. This, though, would require long-term planning, and that’s really not something that the restaurant chain is known for.

So enjoy the McRib when it returns this November 7. It’ll be great to have it while it lasts, even though it will eventually fade away again.

Oh well. At least it’ll almost certainly be back again next year.