Can the Egg McMuffin save McDonald's?

A no-yolk version in the U.S. and 1 million free sandwiches in China are the chain's first line of defense against its detractors.

By Jason Notte Mar 14, 2013 2:46PM
A sign outside the fast-food chain McDonaldThe average consumer looks at the Egg McMuffin and sees an eggy substance, occasionally joined by a meat of choice, mashed between two puck-sized bits of bread. McDonald's (MCD) looks at its marquee breakfast sandwich and sees the perfect weapon for smiting its enemies.

When faced with health-conscious U.S. eaters concerned about the Egg McMuffin's 300 calories, the Golden Arches parried with a new "Egg White Delight" version that tones down the yolk and swaps in a whole wheat muffin. When Ronald worried that an influential Chinese news show that outed its food safety shortcomings in 2012 will target him again this year, Reuters says, he unleashed a deluge of 1 million free McMuffins on Chinese consumers in a pre-emptive strike.

Whether a little morning sustenance will change skeptics' minds remains to be seen, but McDonald's really needs some help from its top non-burger right now. McDonald's February same-store sales were down not only 3.3% in the U.S. but 1.5% worldwide. While the chain blames the loss of an extra sales day from 2012's leap year, the spit-take reaction to its new Fish McBites here in the States certainly hasn't helped.

Even McDonalds' latest Egg McMuffin moves have a halfhearted air to them. The new egg-white version claims to be healthier, but clocks in at only 50 calories less than its predecessor. It's also a somewhat odd choice, considering McDonald's removal of Chicken Selects and apple walnut salad from U.S. menus.

As for those million Egg McMuffins being doled out to Chinese consumers, that's roughly one breakfast sandwich for every 1,350 people in the country. That's not likely to build a whole lot of goodwill ahead of Friday's broadcast of "3.15," an incredibly popular Chinese news show that has made its name publicly shaming companies for violations of consumer trust. McDonald's is just one of several big companies that have been trying to play nice with the Chinese market ahead of the show's latest installment.

Last year, when "3.15" whacked McDonald's for its approach to food safety, the chain was targeted by a wave of bloggers, McDonald's share prices plummeted. The company was forced to issue a public apology.

While U.S. concerns about obesity are nothing to shrug off, China is in no mood to humor big companies charged with feeding its citizens. Much of the nation is already riled up by the discovery of thousands of dead pigs floating in a river that's one of Shanghai's main water sources.

It's not opposed to slapping around a fast-food chain or two, either. Just look at the food safety scare in December that sent sales at Yum Brands (YUM) restaurants like KFC and Pizza Hut into a spin.

That puts a whole lot of pressure on McDonald's little breakfast muffin. It's the friendliest face McDonald's can show its foes these days.

More on moneyNOW

Mar 14, 2013 5:46PM
I don't get what's wrong with 300 calories. If one eats 300 calories 3 times a day for a total of 900 calories, I guarantee you will lose weight, unless  you don't move from your chair all day, or maybe give up breathing. How many calories do you think one should eat. I eat at McDonalds all; the time and I find 300 calories from an egg McMuffin or a breakfast burrito to be fine for keeping my weight down. People just can not stop trying to blame someone other than themselves for any weight gain. If you're fat it's your fault, not McDonalds
Mar 14, 2013 5:51PM

What a stupid article.  If people do not like McD then do not go there.  Most of the whiners on these blogs are just full of crap and they know it.  There is nothing wrong with the food there, just don't make a everyday habit of it.  I stop  there maybe twice a month at the most when I am on the road and always have a good meal, and I am none the worse for wear healthwise. 

So again whiners just shut up and eat what you want with your mouths closed.

Mar 14, 2013 5:35PM
Save McDonald's?  Look at the 10 year income summary on MSN Money.  Net income has increased every year except 2007.  Stock is up 18% over last few months.  This writer is disconnected or has an agenda.
Mar 14, 2013 3:15PM
The fast food places are all alike.  Find a Mom & Pop family-run diner and support them.  The franchise places are, for the most part, terrible.
Mar 14, 2013 7:12PM
I wish they served the Egg McMuffins around the clock.
Mar 14, 2013 5:50PM
Why did china get 1 million FREE sammiches? Whats wrong with the good 'ol USA? Oh we don't count anymore. Got it!!!!!!!!!!!
Mar 14, 2013 6:03PM

300 calories for breakfast GASP!! Yogurt with granola and fruit is that much. A bowl of cereal and a banana are in that neighborhood SHEESH


Mar 14, 2013 5:03PM
Mcdonald's died when they unleashed the $7+ combo meal.

Mar 14, 2013 5:55PM
I tend to eat at home and make my own food. Its cheaper and tastier and only has my spit  and germs on it 
Mar 14, 2013 5:42PM

The Egg McMuffin is the only thing we eat at McDonalds and I personally think it is perfect the way it is but I will try the one with less calories.  When I make them at home I use egg whites and whole grain muffins anyway.


I wish they would make a breakfast sandwich with the small burger, egg and cheese but they won't consider any idea from an outside source.  Could be their biggest problem.  Why not take suggestions from your customers?

Mar 14, 2013 6:04PM
Trust me McDonalds does not need help to survive.  We will all still go there, even the people that say they hate them.
Mar 14, 2013 4:51PM
Name me one healthy food(fast food or not) that tastes good and is non fattening and is possibly good for you(ie) no chemicals,preservatives,pesticides, steroids,antibiotics etc.................
Mar 14, 2013 4:13PM
Only the Hamburgler can save them now.
Mar 14, 2013 4:52PM
Their problem , a sad little oval of potatoes, an egg biscuit , and a medium coffee,,, $5 + ...
Mar 14, 2013 5:38PM
I love Egg McMuffins although I seldom buy any now.  I used to get them on the way to work sometimes on my way to Tampa.  Yum!
Mar 14, 2013 6:02PM

Like most I worked at McDonalds in High School and during the summer I had the opportunity to work the morning rush.  The Egg McMuffin is exactly what it sound like.  It starts out as an EGG the yoke is broken in the mold that McDonalds uses to create the round shape.  We could make 6 at a time.  Your calorie count goes up when you add the butter to the english muffin and in the cheese.  I get that it is 300 calories, but just eat one.  They are still a great breakfast.  All these people that know McDonalds use to love the place when they were kids, unless of course their parents lived on Mars in a cave and didn't take them out anywhere.  There is nothing wrong with the Egg McMuffin or the rest of their menu in moderation.  Spurlock went to extremes with "SuperSize Me"  I agreed with him 100% if you eat McDonalds 3 times a day and supersize it every time then yes you turn into a blob of a person.  Take some responsibility for your own eating habits and stop hating McDonalds.  EVERYONE has a good memory of McDonalds!

Mar 14, 2013 7:02PM
McDonalds is doing OK, fast food, the coffee, french fries and ice cream are OK, maybe the salad to.  Egg McMuffin save McDonalds?
Mar 14, 2013 4:31PM
"Read my lips" (since you obviously can't, it's just an expression geez): Chicken Selects were not healthy!
Mar 14, 2013 5:40PM
Make it with a whole grain muffin and you might have a winner!!
Mar 14, 2013 5:42PM
I think that's why they call them 'fast food' places.....the marquee doesn't advertise 'good food'!
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