BALLSTON SPA – Local McDonald’s restaurants have begun serving a number of standard menu items with updated ingredients.
McDonald’s USA announced on Monday that the company would be removing artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, pork sausage patties, the omelet-style eggs served on McGriddle, bagel and biscuit breakfast sandwiches and the scrambled eggs on breakfast platters.
The company also announced that restaurants would only be serving chicken that has not been treated with antibiotics important to human medicine and the removal of high fructose corn syrup from the buns used on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and Filet-O-Fish and McChicken Sandwiches. The changes affect nearly half of the items on the McDonald’s menu.
Roger Grout, owner of the McDonald’s in Ballston Spa and four other locations in Southern Saratoga County, said that the updated items arrived locally about a week before the announcement. Grout noted that the changes in ingredients have not changed the flavor of any items.
“I’d be hard pressed to have you come try it and tell me that they’re different,” he said. The only difference that Grout has been able to detect is with the buns.
“The toast on the buns is even better than it used to be, that’s one of the things I noticed,” he said. The improved toasting prevents ketchup and mustard from soaking into the buns and gives the buns a slight crunch. If not for communications from headquarters Grout doubts that his employees would have noticed the changes.
Whether they can taste the difference or not, Grout says, “more and more of our customers are interested in where the product comes from.” While Grout notes that he cannot buy produce locally himself, McDonald’s does source some produce, such as apples, from New York State.
According to Grout this has played into the popularity of the new Lobster Roll which is made from 100 percent North Atlantic lobster. The sandwich has done better than the company anticipated despite the fact that the Lobster Roll is the company’s most expensive sandwich at $8.99. As technology has made it easier for consumers to find out what goes into their food, they have started seeking out more natural ingredients.
Last year McDonald’s made a number of changes to ingredients in response to this new consumer demand including replacing the iceberg lettuce in the premium salad blend with romaine, baby spinach and baby kale, replacing the margarine in egg McMuffins with real butter and introducing Buttermilk Crispy Chicken with 100 percent chicken breast fillets and real buttermilk and spices.
In 2015 the company also announced that milk for low fat milk jugs and Go-Gurt low fat yogurt would be sourced from cows that had not been treated with the artificial growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin and a commitment to use 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2025.
Again Grout said that customers could not taste a difference. But, he said, “I want to keep my customers and I want to build my customer base, so I need to be serving what they want and what they’re looking for.”
While the fast food market in Ballston Spa is limited, Grout noted that updated ingredients help his McDonald’s stay competitive with the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street, a Subway restaurant and the recently remodeled Stewart’s Shop.
Ultimately Grout says that the response from patrons to the changes in ingredient at McDonald’s has been positive with people generally expressing the opinion that “they’re making their food taste better and be better for us.”
He added, “I’m extremely proud of the food that we serve and it continues to get better.”