09 November 2011


An unreasonably fascinating speculation about the economics of McDonald's McRib sandwich:

Fast food involves both hideously violent economies of scale and sad, sad end users who volunteer to be taken advantage of. What makes the McRib different from this everyday horror is that a) McDonald’s is huge to the point that it’s more useful to think of it as a company trading in commodities than it is to think of it as a chain of restaurants b) it is made of pork, which makes it a unique product in the QSR world and c) it is only available sometimes, but refuses to go away entirely.

If you can demonstrate that McDonald’s only introduces the sandwich when pork prices are lower than usual, then you’re but a couple logical steps from concluding that McDonald’s is essentially exploiting a market imbalance between what normal food producers are willing to pay for hog meat at certain times of the year, and what Americans are willing to pay for it once it is processed, molded into illogically anatomical shapes, and slathered in HFCS-rich BBQ sauce.

The McRib was, at least in part, born out of the brute force that McDonald’s is capable of exerting on commodities markets.

I am now sold on this theory.

Update: Ian Bogost offers a windy attempt at a psychoanalytic explanation of the sandwich's appeal:

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan gives the name objet a to the thing that elicits desire. In French the phrase means “object other” (the a stands for autre). Think of it as a term for the thing that elicits desire. For Lacan, our behaviors themselves may be knowable, but the causes of those behaviors aren’t always so. Objet a is not the object of desire (the thing we desire), but the thing that causes the desire to come into being (the cause of a desire for that thing). The philosopher Slavoj Žižek sometimes calls objet a the stain or defect in the world that motivates a belief or action.
Yet, the McRib’s perversity is not a defect, but a feature. The purpose of the McRib is to make the McNugget seem normal.

1 comment:

Morpheus said...

This story is revolting on all levels, from the meat product itself to the global socioeconomics. Quite true though: that's probably the most revolting part.