Got Beef? McDonalds Pushes to Swap Frozen for Fresh Beef

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McDonald's is trying to step up its competition with chains such as Shake Shack. Wendy's has long advertised that none of its beef has ever been frozen.
McDonald's is trying to step up its competition with chains such as Shake Shack. Wendy's has long advertised that none of its beef has ever been frozen. Credit: Noriyuki Aida/Bloomberg
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McDonald's is expanding a program that ditches frozen patties in favor of fresh beef, making another break with decades of fast-food practices in a bid to revitalize the chain.

Fresh beef is now being used in some sandwiches in more than 75 restaurants in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area, McDonald's said in a statement, extending trials that began in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, where the company is preparing fresh beef in 55 locations.

The push more than doubles the number of restaurants serving fresh meat, a sign that the chain is stepping up competition with fast-casual eateries such as Smashburger and Shake Shack. In Tulsa, the change will apply to Quarter Pounders and Bacon Clubhouse burgers, according to the statement.

"These burgers are hotter and juicier than our previous quarter-pound patties," said McDonald's Chef Chad Schafer. "They're seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper," he said.

McDonald's has made other moves recently to improve its food, including switching to chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. It is also using real butter, not margarine, in breakfast sandwiches, and removed high-fructose corn syrup from buns. Wendy's advertises that all of its beef is fresh and has never been frozen.

The fresh beef test is being conducted in just a tiny fraction of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. locations. Changing the supply chain, as well as kitchen operations and equipment won't be easy, or cheap, should the test go nationwide.

"If you bring in fresh beef, you've got to be careful on the storage and the kitchen equipment, so you can't have cross contamination," CEO Steve Easterbrook said at an investor conference earlier this year. "We've got to work out whether we have the chillers or refrigerators with the necessary capacity."

That means it will take more time and money before fresh beef could spread to the rest of the chain.

"There's things like that we're going to need to work through," Easterbrook said.

-- Bloomberg News