McDonald's Artisan Chicken Sandwich: Words have no meaning.

McDonald’s, Bewildered by Modernity, Is Selling an “Artisan” Chicken Sandwich

McDonald’s, Bewildered by Modernity, Is Selling an “Artisan” Chicken Sandwich

A blog about business and economics.
April 27 2015 11:36 AM

McDonald’s, Bewildered by Modernity, Is Now Selling an “Artisan” Chicken Sandwich

McDonald's, destroyer of words.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This morning, I stopped by McDonald's to grab an Egg McMuffin, when I noticed this poster by the cash register:


Photo by Jordan Weissmann

There are, I think, two ways one could read the fact that McDonald's is using the word artisan to market its chicken. On the one hand, it could be a self-aware joke meant to finally deal a death blow to one of the most grating words in the pop lexicon. The king of mass-produced fast food has officially appropriated a phrase that once denoted something expensive and handmade, thus rendering it fully devoid of meaning. In which case: McDonald's 1, upper-middle-class foodies 0.


The other possibility: The chain is struggling to reverse its sales woes, and bewildered by the brave new world ushered in by Shake Shack and Chipotle, it has latched on to "artisan" as an inadvertently desperate-sounding synonym for “less industrial.” Apparently, the new chicken recipe leaves out some additives in order to appeal to chemical-averse consumers. Previously, McDonald's debuted an “artisan” roll for its sandwiches that, as Serious Eats put it, "looks like a shellacked brioche."

Either way, shoppers in Cobble Hill and Park Slope now need to find a new class signifier to describe their groceries.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.