McDonald’s is Considering Going Fresh

It appears that McDonald’s is testing one of its biggest changes in decades: using fresh beef instead of frozen patties.

According to multiple outlets, the fast-food chain has expanded its pilot program of fresh-never-frozen beef to include 328 North Texas restaurants. (The program was already in place in 14 restaurants in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and 75 restaurants in Oklahoma.)

According to the local Dallas/Fort Worth McDonald’s website, the restaurants are using 100% pure beef patties from North America that have never been frozen for their “Quarter Pounder” burgers. Additionally, burgers are supposedly cooked only when ordered, as opposed to being stock-piled in advance.

Of course, the expansion to using fresh beef could result in a great taste improvement and image boost to a company that is continuing to reinvent itself.

But it could also lead to disaster. Why?

Just two words:

Remember Chipotle.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which built its reputation on cooking great-tasting food with fresh ingredients, delivered quickly to customers, was riding high just a few years ago. But as the company grew, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the high safety standards needed while relying on tens of thousands of low-wage workers, especially when it came to dealing with raw meat.

The result? A series of outbreaks of food-borne illness that sent the company reeling–and until now, unable to fully recover.

McDonald’s’ franchisees have expressed similar concerns, calling it a “food-safety disaster waiting to happen,” according to Business Insider.

In response to a survey by Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski, various McDonald’s franchisees voiced concerns. “I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly, wrote one franchisee.

“An uncaring employee [could end up] doing something that puts the entire system at risk,” wrote another. “We are the lightning rod. Chipotle will be a walk in the park if we have an incident.”

For McDonald’s to succeed at using fresh beef, it’s going to need to invest lots of money in training employees in taking extreme safety precautions–as well as motivating them to follow through on their training.

If you ask me, that’s not just a tall order.

It’s super-sized.

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