Sunday, January 6, 2013

Restructured Meat Technology

McDonald's McRib Back for Christmas (ABC News)
So, I'm sick with a cold.  Yesterday I spent pretty much all day in bed sleeping off the fever, which is really saying something, because normally I couldn't spend most of a day in bed even if I wanted to.  Today I am up and about, but I figure between taking a shower and making dinner my limited energy is accounted for.  None of that is post inspiring, but I was thinking about something the kids and I stumbled onto the other day while surfing the net together, don't ask me how we ended up where we did, because I could begin to tell you.

Enter the McRib and "restructured meat."  If you are one of the many people who apparently enjoy the McRib and its special limited appearances at McDonald's - you may or may not want to read what follows.  It just depends on if you have a problem with eating "restructured meat" or not. 

The McRib was introduced to McDonald's menu between 1981 and 1982, depending on the McDonald's.  It was developed by McDonald's first executive chef (not a term I would pick for a McDonald's menu item developer, but I wasn't consulted for the article), Rene Arend, to fill the void that the popularity of Chicken McNuggets had left.  It appears that the Chicken McNuggets, also developed by Arend, were such a hit that they depleted our chicken supply.  Not wanting to leave customers hungry and unhappy, Arend was given the task to develop a new hot selling menu item. 

Enter the McRib.  The McRib isn't actually made of out ribs, but out of restructured meat products:  "restructured meat product" contains a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs."

"The McRib is made in large processing plants—lots of stainless steel, a number of production lines, and these long cryogenic freezers. The pork meat is chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks like a rib back. Then we flash-freeze it. The whole process from fresh pork to frozen McRib takes about 45 minutes."

Even though the McRib is made by McDonald's and we don't think very highly of their food, we were still surprised to discover that the McRib is just another concoction of meats, or meat by-products rather, that I generally think they scraped up off the slaughter house floor and found a disgusting, albeit creative, use for.  I guess that even I was gullible in believing that since they looked like ribs - they actually were, or at the very least had some rib meat in them.

I find stories like this disturbing, and I wonder how many people realize what they are actually eating.  I knew about "pink slime" for years before public school parents across the country started complaining about it as though it was all new news to them, and I'm generally the last to know anything.  But I will admit that we have an odd fascination with food up here on the mountaintop, so maybe we pay more attention to these kinds of stories than the average Joe. 

If you would like to read the full article on the McRib, which I would recommend because it goes into far more and interesting depth than I did, it can be found here.  And if you're bored on this Sunday afternoon and haven't seen it - I would also recommend a viewing of Food, Inc..  Food, Inc. is a documentary, but it is fast paced and riveting, and it will leave you wanting to watch it again and again - at least it does me.