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McDonald's wants everyone to know exactly what's in its McRib.
The McRib, a sandwich made of processed pork pressed into the shape of ribs and glazed with barbecue sauce, has become an object of almost cult fascination, scorn and mystery since its introduction in 1982.
Lisa McComb, McDonald's Director of Media Relations, said that when the McRib returns each fall it starts getting an uptick in customer inquiries about its nature. "Where are its bones? Is it really pork? Those are the common questions," said McComb.
The fast food giant released a new video on YouTube Monday taking viewers, along with a skeptical tweeter and a former Mythbusters host, inside one of its food processing centers in Oklahoma where McRibs are made.
The video shows how a slab of boneless pork gets ground and then formed into the shape of a rack of ribs. It gets misted and then flash frozen. A pink rectangle results.
While McDonald's has long maintained an online FAQ on its own site and sent out media releases and tweets, the company has recognized it needs to go where customers are talking about the brand and engage with them on the platforms they're already using said McComb.
With the YouTube video, "We're showing the story instead of just telling it," said McComb.
The video is the fast food giant's latest effort in a long-running online campaign to convince consumers its food is made of quality ingredients.
Whereas most fast food advertising features happy families or folks having good times with their food, the videos and related tweets offer a somewhat gritty, realistic portrayal of how McDonald's prepares its products.
"They’re trying to be transparent about their process," said Steve Posavac, a marketing professor at Vanderbilt University.
Another video in the series took viewers inside a chicken nugget factory in Canada. There the fast food company wanted to show that no "pink slime" was used to make its chicken nuggets.
McDonald's has been the subject of howling online bile after images of the ammonia-treated “lean finely textured beef" pouring thickly at a factory went viral. Jamie Oliver went on a tirade and two former USDA scientists appeared on TV to denounce the ingredient. McDonald's has said it stopped using the lean beef trimming in 2011 and its nuggets are made with white boneless meat.
While the videos offer a provocative look into the McDonald's food production, the question is whether consumers will bite.
"There’s an old idiom that, 'Nobody wants to see how the sausage is made,'” said Posavac.
Email Ben Popken firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @bpopken.