The Simple Reason McDonald's Salads Cost More Than You'd Expect

There are a lot of long-discontinued products for which McDonald's customers in the U.S. are still pining. Some of these are menu items that sold well enough to be brought back occasionally for brief periods (like the McRib), while others, like the Arch Deluxe, never sold well enough to begin with. But a rare few items actually did sell well but couldn't survive their operating costs. The Snack Wrap was one. But there's another, too: salads.

However, while you can't get McDonald's salads at most U.S. locations anymore, customers can still find them in places like the United Kingdom (Snack Wraps, too, actually). One of the reasons it's no longer available in the U.S., though, is the price. How come salads are so much more expensive than burgers? Isn't lettuce cheaper than beef? Well ... yes, but the costs involved are a bit more complicated than that, as our old friend Chef Mike Haracz is here to explain. Ultimately, it comes down to two key factors: shelf life and transportation costs.

Lettuce has a much shorter shelf life than beef

Chef Mike Haracz, aka @chefmikeharacz on TikTok, is a former McDonald's corporate chef who's become a font of McDonald's secrets in the past year. He's given us explanations for things like how there's no ketchup in Big Mac sauce, made clear that McDonald's fries actually are made from real potatoes, and informed us which store-brand pickles are most like those at the Golden Arches. Recently, he explained why McDonald's salads cost so much relative to burgers.


Replying to @ScottMasters Former #McDonalds corporate chef talks about why salad is so expensive. #McdonaldsLife #McDonaldsTikTok #mcdonaldssecrets #McDonaldsSecret #FastFood #FastFoodSecrets #FastFoodTikTok #FastFoodLife #fyp #Salad #salads #saladsoftiktok #saladfingers #saladrecipe #salada

♬ original sound – Chef Mike Haracz

The biggest issue, as Haracz explains, is shelf life. Ground meat can be easily frozen and thus lasts much longer, but leafy greens, not so much. It's possible to freeze certain types if you're careful, but McDonald's salads typically use iceberg and romaine, neither of which freeze well. When a food freezes, the water inside that food expands, potentially rupturing the food's cell walls for a detrimental effect on its texture. This is less of a problem with beef, which has a relatively low water content, but the lettuces McDonald's uses are mostly water, resulting in a soggy, leafy mess. As such, getting fresh lettuce is more expensive because you can't keep it for as long — and that cost gets passed on to the customer.

Lettuce is also way more expensive to transport than beef

That's not the only part of what makes salads pricier. Transportation also comes heavily into play here because it's simply way more difficult to transport lettuce in mass quantities than beef. That same high water content is a factor again, as Haracz explains: The amount of lettuce you need to make up a salad naturally takes up significantly more truck, train, or ship space than the meat for a burger. It's simply more cost-effective to transport beef than lettuce.

You also have to worry about the issue of damage in transport. If ground beef gets dented or bruised, no one notices because it will be cooked anyway. But customers generally don't want vegetables that look damaged, even if they're perfectly safe to eat; this is why grocery stores and other food purveyors generally reject "ugly" produce.

All of this combines to explain why the pandemic killed off the McDonald's salad and why it's likely not coming back. Sorry, fans of the McSalad Shaker, you're out of luck on this one.