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The Origin Of The McDonald’s McRib Sandwich

The 80's Blog Dec 17, 2021

As if you needed another reason as to why the 80s was the best decade ever, the McDonald’s McRib sandwich may just clinch it for you. If you are in search of a fast-food icon that divides opinion like no other, you need to look no further than the McDonald’s McRib sandwich.

For forty years this boneless barbecue rib burger has been a menu favorite, while at the same time inspiring protests and petitions among fans and foes alike. Often dubbed “the McWorst” by its detractors, it’s also been credited with reviving sales and winning new customers for the Golden Arches. So how was the McRib created and why has it remained so popular?

A McRib Ad From The Early 80s
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The McRib was first introduced to McDonald’s menus in 1981, although not as we know it today. Containing a ground pork patty between two pieces of polystyrene foam, the “McRib Sandwich” also contained onions and pickle slices and was served on a sesame seed bun. The sandwich originally sold for 39 cents and was met with moderate success.


However, it would be several years before the McRib would take on its now-iconic form. In the early 1990s, McDonald’s decided to give the McRib a makeover. The pork patty was replaced with a boneless rib patty, which was then coated in a barbecue sauce and breadcrumbs. This gave the McRib a more consistent texture and flavor, which helped it to become one of the chain’s most popular menu items.

The McRib has gained tremendous popularity on McDonald’s menus ever since, due in part to its low price point and limited availability. The sandwich is only offered for a few months each year, and always in select locations. The sauce can vary based on location as well, with some customers reporting that certain places offer a sweeter or spicier sauce than others.

One of the most common theories why the McRib remains so popular is that it gives customers something to talk about. The sandwich comes and goes like clockwork, leading many (especially on internet forums) to conclude that it’s a seasonal food item in disguise. In reality, McDonald’s has confirmed in interviews that this isn’t the case. The sandwich is retired from the menu and simply returns to select locations every year.

Another reason why the McRib has remained popular for so long is that it is simply a great point of contention among fast-food enthusiasts. The sandwich has inspired bad ‘zines, websites, and even protest groups like McSpotlight. Some people go out of their way to actually get the McRib (which is rather difficult given its limited availability), while others go out of their way to avoid it.

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The McRib Has Its Fair Share Of Detractors

Often both sides are equally passionate, resulting in an endless debate over whether the McRib is a bona fide fast-food icon or just another dumb novelty item. Nonetheless, love it or hate it the McRib seems as if it’s here to stay in some way, shape, or form. Whether you’re a fan of the sandwich or not, it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the most intriguing and polarizing fast food items out there, and it all started back in the greatest decade ever (the 1980s).

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