Bun and done: How the Archburger will help Oklahoma businesses sizzle

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2018 By: Brian Brus Source: The Journal Record

McDonald’s plans to roll out more fresh beef products beyond the Quarter Pounder creates a business opportunity for Oklahoma beef producers, said Ed Sanchez, Lopez Foods chief executive.

Lopez Foods played a key role in shaping the restaurant chain’s new Archburger patty before its limited release in the Tulsa market, Sanchez said. Lopez Foods tried several portion sizes and cooking approaches on its own corporate test grill, providing feedback to McDonald’s corporate offices. At a little less than 3 ounces each, the patties fall between those on McDonald’s basic hamburgers and Quarter Pounders.

“We call it the ideation process,” Sanchez said. “We led the innovation and experiments for McDonald’s. We’ve been testing for about two years, improving the process. Now, that program has been approved to go national.”

Lopez Foods began as a spinoff of Wilson Foods, which has been producing frozen beef patties for McDonald’s since 1968. Several years later, controlling interest in the company was bought by John C. Lopez, a McDonald’s franchisee whose family operated several restaurants. The company now supplies a variety of cooked products to the dining industry under the Quick’N Eat brand.

Lopez Foods already tries to use local ingredients as much as possible, Sanchez said. The McDonald’s burger improvement will only serve to increase that effort.

McDonald’s has made several menu changes in response to the consumer interest in quality ingredients and sourcing, such as eliminating artificial preservatives in Chicken McNuggets. Lopez said the shift away from frozen patties is another step in that direction. His company sends the fresh meat to distribution centers, which will forward the product to restaurants in less than 24 hours.

“We buy from Oklahoma ranches, but because of the volume, we also buy from Texas,” Sanchez said, adding that most of its pork comes from Guymon. “If sales continue on pace, this will increase jobs. We’ll probably have to hire more employees to deliver higher volume.”

John Michael Riley, a professor and agriculture economist at Oklahoma State University, said the transition is likely to help local ranchers. He said McDonald’s is tapping into the consumer locavore trend for locally sourced foods, even if it’s indirectly due to freshness constraints. Over time, however, such interests tend to level out economically because consumers can only eat so much.

“As you look toward the urban areas, you’re seeing more and more locally sourced portions of restaurant menus, even here in Oklahoma,” he said. “For producers that are able to supply to those places, either directly to the consumer or indirectly via a restaurant, there’s obviously benefits. However, it’s kind of hit-and-miss, and the overall percentage

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