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McDonald's rolls out fresh beef in select burgers

The chain is targeting consumers who want quality as well as value

Photo (c) Coast-to-Coast - Getty Images
In another sign that the burger war is heating up, McDonald's is launching the use of fresh ground beef in its Quarter Pounders and other signature sandwiches. Fresh beef is already being used in about 3,500 U.S. restaurants. The chain plans to extend that to 14,000 locations within the next two months.

Competing hamburger chain Wendy's has advertised the fact that its ground beef is "fresh and never frozen," comparing itself to an unnamed hamburger chain that uses frozen patties.

McDonald's USA CEO Chris Kempczinski says the move to fresh ground beef is part of what he calls a "food journey," noting the fast food chain has made a number of important changes in recent years -- committing to only sourcing cage-free eggs by 2025 in the U.S. and serving chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine.

“The switch to fresh beef quarter-pound burgers is the most significant change to our system and restaurant operations since All Day Breakfast,” Kempczinski said. “Over the past two years, we have been listening to our customers and evolving our business to build a better McDonald’s. We are proud to bring our customers a hotter and juicier quarter-pound burger at the speed and convenience they expect from us.”

A year in the making

McDonald's announced the transition a year ago and began test marketing the concept in a number of markets. It said customer response was particularly strong in Dallas and Tulsa. The company expects the national rollout, which excludes Alaska and Hawaii, to give it an advantage in reaching consumers who want quality as well as value.

The decision coincides with other major changes at the fast food chain, which has remodeled restaurants using a sleek, modern design, installed ordering kiosks, and implemented limited table service, along the lines of more upscale chains like Panera Bread.

According to CNBC, the transition to fresh beef could help McDonald's speed up its service. It notes that a fresh patty can cook up to 40 seconds faster than a frozen one, helping to move cars through the drive-thru line a little faster.

With the move to fresh beef, McDonald's is also introducing a new menu item -- the Galic White Cheddar sandwich, made with either fresh beef or chicken.

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