Big news in Big Food: McDonald's is testing fresh beef at 14 locations in Dallas, Nation's Restaurant News reports. The test will use fresh beef for burgers made with quarter-pounder patties specifically, and it will surely shape the company's continued direction toward improved food quality. Currently, McDonald's uses frozen beef exclusively, a "proprietary meat mix" Eater New York critic Robert Sietsema finds wholly dissatisfying.
A shift of any degree to fresh beef reflects a massive re-haul in McDonald's operations and philosophy. It could also set a precedent toward meeting customer's growing demands for better quality and "clean" ingredients, an impressive move when McDonald's is, for many, a household symbol of fast food industry evil.
"Like all of our tests, this one too is designed to see what works and what doesn't within our restaurants by considering the operational experience, customer response, price points, and other important information, which may inform future decisions," McDonald's publicist Lisa McComb told Restaurant News.
Perhaps this was always the next phase in McDonald's great comeback plan. Following a three-year sales decline since 2013, the company has, under chief executive officer Steve Easterbrook, launched several major efforts to improve sales and customer satisfaction: all-day breakfast, commitments to preservative- and antibiotic-free chicken nuggets, and a revamped value menu. "We are on a journey to modernize our restaurants to deliver a more engaging, customized, and relaxing customer experience," McComb said. "Tests like this can help inform our journey."
Last year, Sietsema proclaimed until McDonald addresses its gross "meat problem," the company will fail to emerge from its sales slump. The move to test fresh beef is certainly an acknowledgement of the problem, but it's hard to imagine McDonald's implementing fresh beef nationwide. With 14,000 locations, it's more than double the size of Wendy's operations, which Restaurant News notes is the biggest fast food chain that currently uses fresh beef. McDonald's is the largest fast food chain both nationally and internationally, and the company earns around four times more than Wendy's annual sales.