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McDonald's experiments with a new ingredient: fresh beef

Samantha Masunaga

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May 13, 2016

In its fight against so-called better-burger chains, McDonald's Corp. has started slinging fresh beef.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food chain said it is cooking fresh beef -- rather than using "flash frozen" patties -- as a test in 14 restaurants in the Dallas area.

The company said on its website that it generally grinds fresh beef, forms patties, then freezes them quickly to retain flavor.

The fresh-beef trial in Dallas is limited to the patties on the chain's quarter-pounder burgers. Company spokeswoman Lisa McComb said it was "premature" to draw any conclusions from this test.

Over the last few years, McDonald's has lost ground to smaller rivals such as In-N-Out and Shake Shack, which tout fresher ingredients and appeal to an increasingly health-conscious consumer base.

McDonald's has already introduced healthier options, such as breakfast bowls with egg whites, kale and turkey sausage, and an all-day breakfast menu, which the company credited with boosting first-quarter same-store sales by 5.4% compared with those a year earlier.

But remaking its image with customers won't be an overnight affair, said Kevin Burke, founder and managing director of investment banking firm Trinity Capital.

"It's going to be a long battle," he said. "They're going to get it together sometime, but this is going to be a slow turnaround."