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The history and mystery surrounding the McRib

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AP

As of today, McDonald’s famous and much-loved McRib is back on the national scene. For a limited time, you can enjoy the barbecue pork sandwich without going on a search reminiscent of those for Big Foot and Nessie. Whether you are currently wiping that savory sauce off of your face, are planning on venturing out to pick up a sandwich, or are just curious about what the big deal is, check out these fun facts on the McRib.

Nutritional value

At 500 calories and 26 grams of fat, the McRib isn’t the most diet-friendly of sandwiches. For the same number of calories, you can eat two classic McDonald’s hamburgers and save 8 grams of fat. However, you don’t have to worry about the hamburger disappearing from the menu, so the indulgence may be worth it.

Cult-like following

Over the last three decades, the McRib has become something of a legend. It transcended the realm of fast food fans and made its way into pop culture, earning mentions in “The Simpsons” (as the Ribwich) and on David Letterman’s Top 10 lists.

The sandwich itself contains pork shaped like a rack of ribs that is doused with barbecue sauce and then topped with pickles and onions and served on a bun.

If you aren’t convinced that the McRib is for you, McDonald’s has put together 101 reasons why you should eat one

The history of the McRib

The McRib was introduced in 1982, according to the 101 reasons to eat a McRib interactive promotion, although sources have previously listed its inaugural year as 1981. Either way, it was removed from the menu in 1985 and was reintroduced in the 90’s.

Back in 2005, the sandwich went on a farewell tour.

“Our customers will have the last chance to experience the savory taste of the McRib Sandwich and pay tribute to a part of McDonald's 50-year history," McDonald's spokesperson Jennifer Smith said in a press release in 2005.

But this was not the end of the McRib. It went on two more so-called farewell tours, one in 2006 and one in 2007. It then became available sporadically and regionally in the U.S. The McRib Locator website reported its first McRib sighting on Oct. 3, 2008 in Winner, S.D. Since then, McRibLocator.com has been helping fellow fanatics track down the sandwich across the country. The website even has an Android app, so you can continue your search for the McRib on the go if necessary. Luckily, you won’t have to look very far for the next couple of weeks.

The bone-less rack of ribs

If you have eaten or seen a McRib, you know that the meat of the sandwich looks like a rack of ribs, even though it neither contain bones nor a whole lot of rib meat. It starts out as pork meat, mostly from the shoulder, in a large processing plant, according to a 2009 Maxim article. The meat is chopped up, seasoned, molded into its famous shape and then they flash-freeze it.    

An urban legend of sorts says that the McRib was first made at the University of Nebraska, but that isn’t exactly true. In 1972, the National Pork Producers Council gave University of Nebraska’s Professor Roger Mandingo a grant to work on restructuring meats. Mandingo came up with a process that used salt and mechanical action to compress small pieces of meat, so we have him to thank for the McRib’s unusually shaped patty.