The case of the disappearing McRib

Fast food giant McDonald's is bringing back a sandwich -- the McRib -- that gained cult acclaim over the last three decades, in a move lauded by fans known to travel great distances in the hunt for the coveted treat.

TEXT OF STORY

HOST: Today, you can get a McRib at McDonalds once again. The molded pork patty sandwich with onions, pickles and special sauce returns for a few weeks every year.

But this time the McRib is selling at every McDonald's instead of just select locations.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.


"Is it back?"

Eve Troeh: That's what I heard when I said "McRib" at the office -- from Marketplace engineer Nathan Ruyle.

Nathan Ruyle: I have a childhood attachment to the McRib. I need to go seek it out.

The McRib has been a kind of holy grail...

Male voice from "The Simpsons": Sir, are you alright?

Homer Simpson: I have eaten the Ribs of God.

Homer Simpson once joined a band of Ribheads to roam the land in search of one.

McDonald's created the McRib in 1981. Sales were weak, so it became a sporadic special.

Alan Klein: Pretty elusive and it typically comes back in November based on what I see.

Alan Klein made an online McRib Locator. How far has he driven to get one?

Klein: About four hours.

Four. Hours.

Morningstar analyst RJ Hottovy says McDonald's thinks the grassroots hype has reached critical mass.

RJ Hottovy: The product has spread due to word of mouth and I think it's probably long overdue to be a national product at this point.

But in six weeks, the McRib will disappear. Only the mystery will remain.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.


HOBSON: And while we're on the subject of McDonalds, San Francisco's board of supervisors has passed a law that bans restaurants from giving away toys with unhealthy kids meals.

The law says if you want to give away a toy the meal can't have more than 600 calories and it has to contain fruits and vegetables.

For the record, the McRib clocks in at just under 500 calories. But that doesn't include the fries.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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