Should You Be Concerned About McDonald's Major Menu Change?

April 10th 2017

Anna Albaryan

McDonald's just made a huge announcement.

The popular fast-food recently announced that they would be using fresh, made-to-order patties in their Quarter Pounder burgers by mid-2018, rather than frozen.

McDonald's Quarter Pounder burger and fries.

"Today's announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald's," said McDonald's USA President Chris Kempczinski. "Delivering fresh beef that's prepared when our customers order their food is just another example of how we are raising the bar," he said.

The move comes after increased pressure to offer fresher ingredients at fast-food chains across America, something competing restaurants like Wendy's and Five Guys are already doing.

"There has been increasing demand for natural and fresh products and that’s been driving industry sales," an analyst at Morningstar, and investment research firm, told the Financial Times.

McDonald's, however, had always stuck to their guns with frozen meat, making this their "most drastic menu change in decades," according to a report by Business Insider.

This begs the question: why start risking it now?

Despite the chance of bacterial contamination, the risk of having an outbreak is, in fact, very small.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler told the Washington Post that the risks that come with McDonald's decision to use fresh beef are so small, "he's not worried."

“The beef industry has done a remarkable job putting me out of business,” joked Marler, after admitting that fast-food chain restaurants have made dramatic improvements to their food-safety operations since the 90s.

“If I was them, I would ramp up the training for the people handling the food,” Marler said. “They’ve got to keep it in the fridge. If you stack 30 patties out while you’re cooking when it's 70 or 80 degrees in the kitchen, you’re going to have bacteria growth. And that could be a problem," he said.

So, the risk is small — but it's still a risk. And McDonald's investors know it. 

Though McDonald's reports that the push to use fresh beef in their Quarter Pounders has been met with "overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers and employees," according to McDonald's Dallas/Fort Worth Franchisee Joe Jasper, it does also come with risks.

Not long ago, Chipotle was hit with a highly publicized E. Coli scare in several of its restaurants, which may have been tied to the employees' mishandling of fresh food.

The E. Coli bacteria found in some of Chipotle's food.

McDonald's risks a similar bacterial contamination by choosing to use fresh beef patties, which was a concern for the investment firm Nomura last summer, when the initial trials for this menu change were taking place.

"If we do not handle the meat perfectly there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product,” one of the investors told the post. 

"An uncaring employee [could do] something that puts the entire system at risk," another said.