Friday, November 18, 2011

A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage

November 18th, 2011
I have a special relationship with the McRib sandwich. Long ago, I had a friend who used to eat those things and the smell of them turned my stomach. He found my revulsion hilarious and he would taunt me by offering me some of the McRib, or blowing the putrid fumes my way. One time, he pulled back the soggy bun to reveal a gruesome, Giger-esque, horror within. Rubbery, gray-green-pink, form pressed “rib” with brown slime sauce…
And that’s when it hit me:
“You’re eating a slab of pig snouts and sphincters,” I said.
And then he’d load the thing up with fries, plop the bun back on top and just go to town on that mess.
Mmm mmm good.
I don’t know what percentage of the McRib “meat” component is comprised of pig snouts and sphincters, if any, (the article mentions pork offal slurry, which is close enough for me), but the image of that bread being pulled back, and the smell… *shiver* *goose bumps* The sick feeling is with me even now, decades later. It comes to me anytime I see a reference to McDonald’s. Whether my epiphany about the “true” nature of the McRib sandwich is real or not, I can assure you, it’s real to me.

The Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange, 1971 Warner Bros.
The Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange, 1971 Warner Bros.

I should be thankful for the experience. It put me off McDonald’s for good.
Via: The Awl:
The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product—the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things—the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib—are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach—but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets—it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

The theory that the McRib’s elusiveness is a direct result of the vagaries of the cash price for hog meat in the States is simple: in this thinking, the product is only introduced when pork prices are low enough to ensure McDonald’s can turn a profit on the product.
McDonald’s Food Doesn’t Break Down Over Time?

Definition of OFFAL

: the waste or by-product of a process: asa : trimmings of a hideb : the by-products of milling used especially for stock feedsc : the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in dressing : variety meat

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