The Truth About What's Really In McDonald's McRib

For avid fans of fast food, the calendar year can be split into two parts: The time when the McDonald's McRib sandwich is offered on the menu, and the time when it isn't. 

The McRib has just celebrated its 40th year on the McDonald's menu, and throughout its existence, it has developed a cult-like fan following (per CNN Business). But if it's so popular, why wouldn't the Golden Arches sell the smoky-tasting delicacy all year round? According to Alexander Chernev, a marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University, popular products are often made seasonal as a marketing ploy. "When you have these exclusive products, which exist for a short period of time, it gives people a reason to come to the store." 

The next time you notice that the seasonal McRib has been placed on the McDonald's drive-thru menu, you may feel excited enough to start clapping your hands with glee. But before you fall for clever marketing and place your order, it helps to know exactly what constitutes a McRib sandwich. 

No rib meat is used to make the McRib

According to McDonald's, this fan-favorite offering is made up of a homestyle bun, a McRib pork patty, McRib sauce, sliced pickles, and onions. Interestingly, even with just a handful of ingredients, it clocks in at a whopping 520 calories. This is already one-fourth of a person's daily caloric needs, based on a 2000-calorie diet. What may be even more eye-opening is that the sandwich contains 28 grams of fat and 890 milligrams (39% of your DV) in sodium. 

The McRib's high caloric, fat, and salt content shouldn't be shocking, though. After all, fast food doesn't carry the reputation of being a healthy choice. What may surprise you, however, is that the McRib's rib-shaped pork patty isn't rib meat at all. It's actually pork shoulder plus a variety of other not-quite-marketable pig parts like tripe, heart, and stomach, bound together with preservatives and sugar to look like a rack of ribs (via The Atlantic).

If you want to order the seasonal McRib as an occasional treat, then feel free to do so. You certainly wouldn't be alone in falling for the hype created around seasonal promotions. (Hello, Starbucks and pumpkin spice lattes in autumn!) Just keep in mind that you're eating a fourth of the daily recommended amount of calories in one McRib sandwich — and that the sweet and tangy McRib sauce is hiding the fact that there's no actual rib meat in there.