Courtesy of McDonald's
McDonald's is making a big change to its burgers.
The fast-food chain announced Thursday that its Quarter Pounder burgers would be made with fresh beef instead of frozen beef at most of its restaurants by the middle of next year.
McDonald's has been testing its fresh additive-free burgers that are cooked to order at 402 restaurants in Oklahoma and Texas over the last year.
But some McDonald's franchisees have said fresh burgers could be a food-safety disaster waiting to happen.
A 2016 survey from Nomura found that two dozen McDonald's franchisees thought that introducing fresh beef patties nationwide would slow service and expose the chain to new food-contamination risks.
"I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly," one franchisee wrote.
Another wrote: "If we do not handle the meat perfectly, there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product."
These operators said they feared they could face an E. coli outbreak like the one that affected Chipotle restaurants in 2015. Chipotle's sales plunged by as much as 30% at the time, and its reputation is still damaged by the outbreak.
Using fresh beef would also change how McDonald's restaurants are run, franchisees said.
One franchisee said it would be a "massive learning curve for our managers and crew."
"No doubt the biggest change in McDonald's history," they said. "Would be a huge distraction from our 'turnaround.'"
In the past two years, McDonald's has announced considerable changes to its menu. In 2015, the company said it would use only cage-free eggs by 2025 and not use chicken that had been treated with antibiotics also used on humans.