Fast food giant McDonald’s is testing a preservative-free chicken nugget recipe in an attempt to portray healthier food options and boost its faltering business.
The preservative-free McNuggets are being tested across 140 McDonald’s restaurants throughout Oregon and Washington, according to Time. The fast food chain started selling their preservative-free nuggets in March and are still “very much” in the testing stages.
A spokeswoman for McDonald’s, Becca Hary, declined to confirm if the new preservative-free recipe would go national this summer saying, “this is very much a test.” Hary said customers in the Pacific Northwest test market “have responded favorably” to the new recipe noting, “more than ever, customers care about where their food comes from and how it is prepared.” Still, she said, “we’re not making any announcement.”
According to Hary the McNuggets are “still made with 100% white meat chicken, no artificial flavors or colors, and our signature seasonings and crispy breading.” Despite sounding like a simple and clean recipe using “100% white meat” the McDonald’s website lists the current recipe for McNuggets as including 32 individual ingredients.
McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, is focusing on a healthier message and reducing the list of ingredients for each item that the fast food chain sells. Since taking over as CEO just over a year ago, Easterbrook has taken aim at Egg McMuffins by bringing back an old English muffin recipe and ditching margarine for butter, and he has also instigated a simplified grilled chicken recipe by dropping the number of ingredients from 18 to 12. Easterbrook is trying to eliminate all ingredients that consumers can not pronounce or identify.
It seems that this commitment to healthier recipes and preservative-free nuggets is finally turning around profits for McDonald’s after two years of decline. Last week, Fortune reported that McDonald’s sales at established restaurants increased by 5.4 percent. This is the third quarterly increase in a row. McDonald’s has also pleased customers by committing to serve eggs laid from cage-free hens by 2025 and abolish the use of chickens raised on antibiotics.
Hary says the new recipes put out by McDonald’s are “simpler” and something “parents can feel good” about when giving it to their children, which is a massive cause for the change. The bold move to steer McDonald’s as a healthier option is to help soothe a generation of more discerning parents who are more aware of health and what goes into their children’s Happy Meals.
The company is positioning its new and improved Happy Meals as family friendly, saying they “are made with a simpler recipe that parents can feel good about while keeping the same great taste they know and love.” One of the Portland McDonald’s Facebook pages features pictures to support the new healthy theme with pictures of smiling children and a child feeding a preservative-free McNugget to an adult.
This new preservative-free McNuggets trial is the first time the recipe has been changed since its national release in 1983. Despite what could be a backlash the change needed to be made to help clean up the McDonald’s label. McDonald’s is not the only fast food company trying to combat the perception that its food is overly processed and laden with preservatives. Other restaurants and packaged-food companies are also rushing to respond to changing consumer demands that were thrown into overdrive after the release of documentaries Super Size Me and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead which shook up Americans and the way they viewed food.
According to the Consumerist customers in the Pacific Northwest test market “have responded favorably” to the new preservative-free McNugget recipe. McDonald’s is asking consumers who live in the new McNugget test market areas who have tried the new preservative-free McNugget recipe to have their say and let McDonald’s know how the new nuggets stack up compared to the old version. You can send your opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Photo via Bloomsberg/Getty Images]