Of all the things you may know about Oklahoma, and especially Oklahoma City, we’re betting you didn’t know McDonald’s famous McRib is produced right here. Not the whole sandwich, obviously, but the meat, including its shape, starts at OKC-based Lopez-Dorada Foods.
“I remember making the meat for the McRib as far back as 2000,” said Lopez-Dorada president John Patrick Lopez. “Many companies around the country made them back then, but McDonald’s has consolidated the list down to two companies, and we’re the larger of the two.”
Lopez said the company buys as much pork as it can from the Seaboard Foods processing plant in Guymon to make the McRib, but there’s no way to say for sure how much of the product is locally sourced.
“We know it’s not 100%, but we get as much in there as possible,” he said. “We’ve got the system down to where it’s very efficient now, and we’re always excited when the season rolls around.”
Whether or not the season rolls around again is supposed to be a cliffhanger of sorts, with McDonald’s calling this year’s release the “farewell tour.” However, it’s worth noting that they had one of those in 2005, too. The product is made from pork shoulder, and it’s surprisingly popular worldwide, even making the permanent menu in a few countries. Lopez said they don’t disclose the actual volume produced, but that it’s “consistently inconsistent in a good way.”
“The volume depends on the type of promotion associated with the season,” he said. “And we never know what the promotion will look like until McDonald’s makes the announcement.”
John Patrick’s father, John C. Lopez, purchased the controlling interest in the plant that produced exclusively beef patties for McDonald’s in 1992. The company asked them to consider a move from Los Angeles, where the family were franchise owners of four McDonald’s restaurants, to Oklahoma City. John Patrick made his permanent move here in 1997 after finishing college. The company expanded again in 2011, when they purchased a poultry processing plant in Ponca City that produces Chicken McNuggets.
The parents are retired now, living in Edmond, so John Patrick and his brother Dave continue the tradition of family ownership, even as they opened the ownership up to employees in 2004, and added the Sanchez family as owner-operators as well. The transition led to growth both internally and by acquisition, as with the Ponca City facility.
For John Patrick Lopez, there is substantial pride in being one of the main suppliers to McDonald’s, but he also emphasizes the role Lopez Foods and Lopez-Dorada Foods have played in helping diversify Oklahoma’s workforce. “McDonald’s asked my parents to consider a change in roles in hopes of diversifying their company,” he said, “and we’ve continued the tradition of diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve knocked down barriers as a company, and it’s wonderful to see how diverse Oklahoma City has become. It’s a way we get to honor our heritage and our history.”