Just call it McChicken?

As beef prices soar, McDonald's new boss will add more chicken items to the menu.

By Kim Peterson Jul 2, 2012 6:51PM
Image: McDonald’s restaurant © AFP/Getty ImagesMcDonald's (MCD) has a new boss, and one of his first moves is to turn up the chicken.

CEO Don Thompson says he will be adding new chicken items to the menu instead of beef. Part of the reason behind that is to follow consumer trends. Americans are eating less beef now -- beef consumption has fallen for six years straight -- and McDonald's is responding to the change.

But there's a more practical motive here as well. Beef prices have skyrocketed as the size of the U.S. cattle herd has fallen to its lowest levels in decades. Ground beef hit an average of $3.02 a pound in March, the highest since 1984.

Those rising beef prices are hitting the fast-food industry hard. Wendy's (WEN) reported a lower quarterly profit than expected in May, largely because of higher beef prices. "The largest concern going forward would be what happens with beef," said Jerry Rebel, chief financial officer of Jack in the Box (JACK), in the company's February earnings call.

High beef prices have got to be a major concern for Thompson as he takes the reins at McDonald's. Raising menu prices is one response, but not one that Thompson probably likes. So he's taking a different route -- turning the focus to much less expensive chicken meat.

McDonald's plans to add bone-in chicken wings and cashew teriyaki salads with chicken to the menu, Bloomberg reports. "Our customers have given us permission to stretch our brand, so we are entering new categories with new products," he said at a consumer conference in May. McDonald's has also begun selling Spicy Chicken McBites.

This is a big change for a company that made its name on the hamburger. But expect competitors to follow its lead, particularly as the price of beef remains outrageously high.

Are we headed for a day when chicken, not burgers, rules the roost at fast-food chains? And are consumers going to accept the new menu?

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Jul 2, 2012 11:51PM
One should not eat at McDonalds or any fast food outlet more than twice a month. Try cooking at home and you and your family could be much healthier.
Jul 2, 2012 11:34PM
I am a meat eater, but I try not to think too much about how our beef or chicken is raised or processed.  I just make sure it is all very well cooked.  You'd have to be a bit crazy to eat raw or extremely rare meat of any kind these days.
Jul 2, 2012 9:17PM
Jul 3, 2012 12:00PM
Once you train your taste buds to eat fresh, healthy food, anything from McDonald's will taste nasty to you - and that's the truth.
Jul 3, 2012 11:33AM
I prefer eating chicken over beef at fast food establishments. I see some posts regarding the poor quality of chicken that will be used and it is funny how quickly we forget their burgers are not made with quality ground beef. Do you think pink slime was the only issue with their burgers?
Jul 2, 2012 10:26PM
Good for McDonalds.  Now, we just have to get them to start using Chipotle chicken.
Jul 3, 2012 11:54AM

please bring back the chicken fajitas!!! 

Jul 3, 2012 12:33PM

To all you people ,the only cage chickens are for eggs. All our chickens are goverened by animal health and welfare. They have to have at least 3/4 sq feet per bird. they are in a large house that is clamite controlled. we have strict rules on how to catch and haul them.

We cannot process a doa [ dead on arrival] chicken. These are sold for waste at  around 7- 10 cents apound. it cost at least $1.35 to produce. We have vets check on them all the time.

Jul 3, 2012 12:26PM
solution is coming soon .... SOYLENT GREEN ... compliance to mandate enforced by gun wielding I.R.S.  agents ... it's a tax man turn over granma's corpse ...COMPLY! COMPLY!COMPLY!!!!!!!!!!!!....this message brought to you by john roberts,esq.
Jul 3, 2012 9:23AM
I don't mind more chicken, but when are they going to change their fish sandwich?? It's been the same for decades, no taste, too much tartar sauce (I've told them to hold back on that and they do when I order the sandwich). Fish has always been square and really tasteless.
Jul 3, 2012 12:26PM
If I go to McDonald's, I don't  buy any of their hamburgers.  They aren't good quality.  Wendy's, Checkers, and even BK have much better quality burgers and not the skinny stuff McD sells.  If I buy a sandwich, it is usually chicken anyway at McD's, so hopefully they will have better quality chicken products than beef products.
Jul 3, 2012 2:44PM
Beef consumption has fallen because the price keeps increasing.
Jul 3, 2012 1:10PM
McDonalds doesn't use North American beef!! They import from Australia, and Brazil!! I only eat Wendy's because they only purchase North American beef!!
Jul 3, 2012 2:47PM
When the chicken nuggets were thick, I used to eat the heck out of 'em.  Forget it, too late Mc'd's.
Jul 3, 2012 1:27PM
Why would you eat at McDonald's?  Their food is disgusting, no matter what it is!
Jul 3, 2012 2:45PM
Jul 3, 2012 9:11AM
where's the beef? its Goneeeee to the Chickenhouse
Jul 3, 2012 11:07AM
That's all we need ,more chicken full of growth hormones,pesticides and terrible cage conditions.Get your fill America.
Jul 3, 2012 2:00PM
considering I'm allergic to chicken....baaaad move
Jul 3, 2012 8:14AM
Bet all those contaminated chicken from Mexico will be bought by Micky D's ......870,000 dead chicken bet they get a real good deal on them.
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