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Where’s the beef? QSRs pushing chicken, pork

With few exceptions, the largest fast-food burger chains are turning their promotional spotlights this fall on choices featuring pork or chicken.

Sometimes, it’s tough to tell the difference between even those two proteins. McDonald’s revealed today that it’s adding a burrito that uses dark-meat chicken to mimic the flavors of chorizo, the spicy pork sausage. The chicken is flavored with chipotle pepper and paprika.

Shredded dark meat chicken is usually lower in price than chicken wings or white meat. It is also regarded as being more flavorful.

Wendy’s, meanwhile, rolled a pulled-pork sandwich this week. The pork is also available as a topping for burgers and French fries.

Sonic Drive-Ins is showcasing new Boneless Wings, which are actually nuggets of white-meat chicken served with dipping sauces.

Sister chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s haven’t completely forsaken the meat that brung ‘em, but their latest versions of a burger feature bacon as much as beef. The brands’ respective Mile High burgers are piled with applewood-smoked bacon.

Burger King is pushing an Oreo Shake, but a longstanding bacon burger is also getting considerable stage time this week on the chain’s website.

The diversification comes at a time when beef, chicken and pork costs have hovered around an all-time high, but the thresholds hit by beef have been particularly lofty.

The stepped-up use of chicken and beef is also consistent with a professed goal of many chains to draw consumers’ attention with the sort of products they might not expect from a familiar brand.

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