You may have caught the news that McDonald's has a new item called Fish McBites. It's the second seafood offering from the fast-food giant. The first being, of course, the Filet-O-Fish. That classic with the fried fish, steamed bun, American cheese and tartar sauce was added nationally in 1965, a way to lure Catholics who didn't eat meat on Fridays. So it's no surprise Fish McBites are debuting near the start of Lent.
Filet-O-Fish has never outsold burgers at McDonald's, but the company is one of the largest buyers of fish in the United States, says Kerry Coughlin, a regional director with the Marine Stewardship Council. The council recently certified all McDonald's fish as sustainable. This morning, she says, several council staff brought in their wrappers from the sandwich and the cardboard boxes of the new Fish McBites, to show off the "wild-caught Alaskan pollock" language on the packaging.
Coughlin says the Alaskan fishery is sustainable because the managers make sure the boats don't catch too much, too fast.
"Ensuring that they will have a supply of fish to keep that business going," she says.
In addition to the green halo, fish gives McDonalds another reputation boost with moms, says marketing analyst Maria Bailey.
"Millenial moms like to have their children have a broader range of flavors and tastes in their diet," she says.
They might see a McBites Happy Meal as a way to introduce the fish flavor. Plus she finds these younger moms tend to me more conscious of health. Sure it's battered, fried fish, but compared to rumors and concerns over beef (remember "pink slime"?), it's better.
"They want to keep their children safe, and fish seems like a safer route," Bailey says.
A Fish McBites Happy Meal has 135 calories less than a cheeseburger meal. However, if you pick up another seasonal item on the menu, the oh-so-popular Shamrock Shake, it probably negates any health savings.