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The McRib: A Free Market Love Story

A student sent me this important news, the most important he had ever shared with me.  And I share his joy:

Prepare yourselves: the McRib is coming back!

The barbecue sandwich, which has developed a cult, is making its way back to McDonald’s restaurants all over the country in a mere two weeks, the company announced on Monday.

The sandwich was originally scheduled to burst back onto the fast food scene on Oct. 22, but the McPowers that be decided to hold the McRib’s temporary comeback until December to help four[th]-quarter sales.

At last. I had my first McRib in New Jersey, on the way from Philadelphia to Long Beach Island — the one hit hard by Hurricane Sandy — in the early 1980s. It was a revelation. It was a sweet, spicy, pork product, with the sourness of the pickle and onion. It was like Spam, but better. And the fact that it was shaped like a rib sandwich somehow made it more credible than McNuggets.

Perhaps there is a larger free market story here. The food police may have banned shark fin soup and geese liver in San Francisco, and large sodas in New York, but they have yet to ban the McRib. Even though it is equally strange, artificial, and bad for your health, it is what the market demands. Only McDonald’s, for marketing reasons unknown, forces us to wait at random intervals. But far better for McDonald’s and its customers to make that decision than mayors and governors.

  1. E. Blackadder

    Please don’t give San Francisco and New York City any ideas.

  2. Jimmy Carter

    I’m still waiting the return of the McDLT.

  3. tabula rasa

    [Cue Hallelujah Chorus]: I love the McRib.   

  4. Doctor Bean

    Note to self: Ask Rabbi for a single exception to religious dietary laws.

  5. Omid Moghadam

    This news is going to make the next 4 years just a bit more palatable (every possible pun, and maybe a few impossible ones intended).

  6. Dave

    Last time the McRib came out, fall 2011 I believe, Alex Tabarrok linked to an article ( http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/11/the-mcrib-arbitrage.html ) explaining the availability of the sandwich as a function of pork prices dipping below a certain level that made the sandwich profitable.

    The McRib is only available for a short time, the argument went, because McDonalds’ purchasing power is so great that it drives up the price of pork, eventually causing it to rise above the profitability level.

  7. Rachel Lu
    C

    Never understood the cult of the McRib. I do go to McDonald’s sometimes (mostly for either breakfast or drinks), but that sandwich repulses me. Just slimy and squishy and yuck. Pass the whopper, please!

  8. John Walker
    John Yoo

    Only McDonald’s, for marketing reasons unknown, forces us to wait at random intervals.

    My guess is that it’s like Disney, who in the era before video tapes and discs, would release their classic movies in the theatres at an interval of years such that each cohort of children would discover them as something new and magic to them.

    With McDonald’s, it’s both customers returning for tastes of yore and bringing in a new generation of customers who will fondly remember their first bite into the treat long after it has cycled off the menu, only to return years later.

  9. Aaron Miller

    Oh, John, poor John! There’s a real BBQ sandwhich waiting for you in the heartland. Don’t settle for some fast floozy with fake curves.

  10. Jojo

    My husband and I treated ourselves to McRibs when they were available maybe two years ago- had not had one since around 1980.  The recent one was not the same, sorry, it is not just the passage of time. I’m with Rachel. It was not that great and I won’t bother again.

  11. Austin Murrey

    It’s posts like this whIch answer the question: “Why Ricochet?”

  12. Aaron Miller

    When I was a kid, it was a rare treat to eat at McDonald’s. The heyday was the onset of the 99-cent war, in which McD’s took a powerful lead with 30-cent cheeseburgers on Wednesdays, closely accompanied by the Homestyle burger. Now, financial priorities have once again driven a wedge between us, but I occasionally return for 20 McNuggets and a large chocolate shake.

  13. Troy Senik, Ed.
    C
    Aaron Miller: Oh, John, poor John! There’s a real BBQ sandwhich waiting for you in the heartland. Don’t settle for some fast floozy with fake curves. · 0 minutes ago

    Aaron, I had the exact same thought.

    John, we’ll have to schedule a live episode of “Law Talk” from Hog Heaven in Nashville.

  14. Pilli

    I tried a McRib. Once.

  15. Tom Lindholtz

    Now you’ve done it. The LFPD, the Liberal Food Police Dept. , will surely be on their way to the courts (or wherever they go) to stop this wonderful culinary guilty pleasure. The McRib is one of the great market demand driven inventions of the late 20th Century. I can personally guarantee sales. It may not be haute cuisine, but vive vite cuisine!

  16. flownover

    Are we searching for the backbone somewhere in the core of the corporate giants that lay down for this crap ? Where is Coke and Pepsi on the big gulps ? What has sent them running (like rats) for their dark holes of hiding from media acrimony ? These people buy more ads than anyone and they are running from their vendors ?

    Doesn’t make sense. Please provide a moderately professorial answer that satisfies our intellect and our crude public anger (tall order that).

    Chili size at Washoe, Petaluma

  17. wilber forge

    After a trying couple of the McRib concoctions, the desire for another faded rather quickly. Not to say one would not attempt it again for novelties sake.

    Do miss the KFC BBQ chicken, quick and messy, yet good for fast food.

  18. Southern Pessimist

    Strange, artificial and bad for your health is probably the perfect marketing strategy.

  19. SunnyOptimism

    Mmmmmmmm…the McRat…ummm, I mean McRib…..mmmmmm

  20. Southern Pessimist

    But don’t think you actually ate barbecue, as others have noted.

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