After making its first appearance over thirty years ago, the McDonald's McRib has enjoyed immense popularity as a "limited-time only" offering, returning to the menu every once in a while to soak up the spotlight.
Now, to the delight (or conversely, the disgust) of fast food fanatics everywhere, the infamous pork sandwich is returning to McDonald's on December 17 for a limited time.
Interestingly enough, the McRib was first created out of necessity. The sandwich was invented by Rene Arend, the former McDonald's executive chef who was also the mind behind the McNugget, which debuted in 1979. Arend claims that due to the McNugget's demand by McDonald's franchises across the country — a demand which was exceeding the supply — he offered an alternative. "There wasn’t a system to supply enough chicken. We had to come up with something to give the other franchises as a new product. So the McRib came about because of the shortage of chickens,” stated Arend in an interview with Maxim magazine.
But it seems as though the McRib was a pretty polarizing sandwich. It didn't last incredibly long as a full-time menu item, but when it began being marketed during promotional periods only, its popularity skyrocketed. Today, dedicated fans track the availability of the sandwich on websites such as the McRib Locator, while the item's opponents are often heard doubting the pork patty's composition (it's made with very little rib meat and mostly pork shoulder meat). False urban legends also persist that the McRib is made from kangaroo.
Regardless, it's not one of the healthiest sandwiches on the McDonald's menu. The McRib's product page describes the item as "a tasty fan favorite slathered in tangy barbecue sauce, slivered onions and tart pickles all on a hoagie style bun," but those ingredients add up: The McRib contains 500 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium and 26 grams of fat. Perhaps it's a good thing that the sandwich is only available in America for part of the year (as opposed to Germany, where it's always on the menu).
And even though this pork sandwich isn't celebrated all year long in America, it's firmly cemented in our popular culture. People have written songs about it. Comedians often make jokes about it. And a parody of the McRib, called the Ribwich, was the subject of a 14th-season episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer becomes a rabid fanatic of the Krusty Burger's sandwich and follows it across the country when it gets pulled from his local markets.
No matter how consumers feel about it, however, the McRib phenomenon seems likely to continue for years to come. In other words, the McRib is kind of a big deal. What's your stance?