Eventually, consumers who vote with their wallets win.

We wanted fresh food, and we’re getting more of it. The Golden Arches is returning to olden times — those doo-wop days when the fry cook slapped on some fresh, pink ground beef onto the flat-top grill with a hiss, and your burger took a few minutes before landing in front of you at your local diner.

On Thursday, McDonald’s announced its switch from frozen to fresh beef in the Quarter Pounder burgers at the majority of its restaurants by mid to late 2018. Instead of pre-cooking batches of frozen patties and keeping them warm until customers order them, employees will cook the burgers to order.

Sure, that doesn’t include other McDonald’s burgers: Big Mac, McDouble, basic burger and cheeseburger, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and double cheeseburger. But it’s a big step for a chain of about 14,000 franchises in the United States alone.

McDonald’s has lost 500 million customer transactions in the U.S. since 2012, and it’s trying to change its image. People want less processed food these days. They might even be willing to wait a little longer for it. The fresh-beef Quarter Pounder policy is one of several changes in the works for the biggest burger chain in the world.

Shake Shack, In-N-Out, Wendy’s, and Five Guys — all McDonald’s competitors — do not freeze their patties. The best way to make sure your meat is fresh? Go to a farmers’ market or butcher and form a relationship with the meat expert. Buy the best, and fry up your own patties. Try some of these great ways to make burgers at home.

This is no easy swap for a chain known for its convenient, fast food. McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of beef in the world, so the effects of buying fresh beef are multi-faceted: shipping, storage, training, food preparation, the extra time, cost, and increased danger of food-borne illness spreading. In this CBS News clip, Chowhound executive editor Carleigh Connelly discusses more reasons for and ramifications of this restaurant’s major decision.

The origins of McDonald’s are pretty revolutionary. Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s System, Inc. and opened the first McDonald’s, in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. Three years later, McDonald’s sold its 100 millionth burger. The Quarter Pounder debuted in 1973. Today, McDonald’s is in 119 countries.

Kroc’s mission was to create a restaurant known for consistent high-quality food and uniform methods of preparation. He wanted a McDonald’s burger in Utah to taste the same as a McDonald’s burger in Florida — no easy feat.

Now there’s a new revolution. It’s called Real Food. Can Mickey-D’s keep up?

Join the discussion as Chowhounds weigh in on how McDonald’s burgers are cooked, which has changed over the years. Check out our gallery of the best burger  (or darn close to it) sold in your state. *Spoiler Alert* It’s not McDonald’s.

— Head Photo: Restaurant Business Online.


Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
See more articles