OMAHA, Neb. -- An $85,000 research grant that led to the development of a fast-food pork sandwich is creating millions of dollars in new business for the pork industry, a university professor said Thursday.
Roger W. Mandigo, professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the studies led to the McRib sandwich being served by McDonald's Restaurants.
'The McRib sandwich has strengthened the market,' he said. 'In the last few weeks, pork shoulder has been selling for 90 cents a pound compared with less than 80 cents a pound previously.'
Mandigo said research financed by an $85,000 grant from the National Pork Producers Council has had a multimillion dollar impact on the pork industry.
'Commodity News Service attributes a 10 to 15 percent increase in the price of pork shoulders in recent weeks to pork purchases by McDonald's Restaurants,' Mandigo said.
McDonald's so far is the heaviest user of the research, testing the McRib sandwich in 2,000 of its 5,600 restaurants.
The boneless sandwich has nothing to do with pork ribs, Mandigo said. He said it actually is a patty of pork made from small flakes of meat taken from the shoulders of a pig.
The patty, made with meat Mandigo said is leaner than actual pork rib meat, is pressed into the shape of a pork rib and barbecue sauce is added.
'The same things can be done with beef, veal, chicken, turkey, even rabbit and buffalo,' he said.
Mandigo said Burger Chef also has a pork sandwich using the technology that went into developing the McRib sandwich. He said he expects similar items of food to appear on menus in other restaurants as well as institutional restaurants.
To provide pork for its restaurants, Mandigo said McDonald's is buying up to 1.5 million pounds of pork shoulder weekly. Each McDonald's restaurant selling the sandwiches uses 300 to 400 pounds of pork a week.
The available supply of pork shoulder depends on the number of pigs brought to market and varies from 2.4 million pounds to as high as 4 million pounds weekly, Mandigo said.