(Courtesy of McDonald’s Corporation via AP)
(Courtesy of McDonald’s Corporation via AP)

Coming soon to McDonald’s: Fresh beef.

The fast food giant said Thursday that it will swap frozen beef patties for fresh ones in its Quarter Pounder burgers by sometime next year at most of its U.S. locations. It’s a major change for McDonald’s, which has relied on frozen beef for more than 40 years. Employees will cook up the never-frozen beef on a grill when burgers are ordered.

Fresh beef has been the biggest selling point at rival Wendy’s. Yet there are larger forces at work that have prompted other menu changes at McDonald’s, known for decades more for the billions of people served than its culinary choices. The world’s largest hamburger chain has been trying to improve its image as more people shun processed foods. Last year, it removed artificial preservatives from chicken McNuggets and cut out high-fructose corn syrup from its buns.

“Fresh, just as a word and a concept, still carries so much weight for customers,” said Robert Byrne, the senior manager of consumer insights at Technomic, a food industry market research firm. He believes the move to fresh beef will likely drive more people to the Golden Arches and help boost its image slightly.

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