Where's the beef? McDonald's dropping Angus burgers from US menu

Pictured is the exterior of a McDonald's Angus Third Pounder hamburger in carton purchased at a Chicago area McDonald's fast food restaurant Friday, M...
Pictured is the exterior of a McDonald's Angus Third Pounder hamburger in carton purchased at a Chicago area McDonald's fast food restaurant Friday, March 1, 2013, in Chicago. Charles Rex Arbogast

A bit of bad news for all you beef lovers out there: McDonald's said Thursday that it's cutting one-third pound Angus burgers from its menus in the U.S. as beef prices hit all-time highs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) wholesale beef market report on Thursday morning showed choice beef carcasses rising 24 cents per hundred pounds (cwt) to a record $204.91 per cwt above the previous record of $204.67 hit late on Wednesday.

McDonald's and other chains have worked to offset higher beef costs by promoting chicken, which is less expensive than beef. To that end, McDonald's recently introduced premium chicken wraps.

The company in March said it was weighing the removal of its "premium" Angus burgers to make room for other food options.

"While these burgers will no longer be available in our restaurants, they may still play a future role on our menu," spokeswoman Danya Proud said. Angus snack wraps also went on the chopping block.

While prices for beef and other commodities have risen as a result of last summer's historic drought, overall food costs have not seen the sharp spike experts predicted.

The world's biggest hamburger chain introduced Angus burgers in 2009. It has been revamping its menu amid tough competition from revived rivals such as Burger King and Wendy's Co. In March, McDonald's announced it was cutting Fruit & Walnut Salad and Chicken Selects from menus at its more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

The changes come as McDonald's looks to keep up with shifting tastes, even as it underscores the affordability of its food. Notably, the Angus burgers were among the chain's priciest items.

At a time when the restaurant industry is barely growing, McDonald's has been playing up its Dollar Menu in ads to boost sales and steal customers away from competitors. Even if that hurts profit margins, executives say the strategy is critical to gaining market share and ensuring the long-term health of the company.

But Richard Adams, who consults McDonald's franchisees, noted that Dollar Menu has also made the Angus burger a less attractive option at around $4 to $5.

"When you can get four or five burgers off the Dollar Menu, nobody's going to buy the Angus burger," he said. "The Dollar Menu has become a real problem for these chains."

McDonald's did not immediately say whether the burgers and snack wraps remained available in some restaurants. But at a McDonald's in a Detroit suburb, the menu noted this week that they were no longer being sold.

The burgers and snack wraps were still listed on the menu section of McDonald's website on Thursday.

In a bid to attract more customers in their 20s and 30s who are looking for fresher options, McDonald's recently added chicken McWraps to its core menu. According to an internal company memo obtained by Ad Age, the chain referred to the wraps as a "Subway buster" that would keep customers from heading to the sandwich chain.

Additionally, the chain now offers a version of its Egg McMuffins made with egg whites and a whole grain muffin. Customers are able to substitute egg whites into any breakfast sandwich.

McDonald's isn't the only one trying to refresh its menu. Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy's have also been rolling out new items aimed at improving the image of their food. But traditional fast-food chains are trying to evolve in a tough economic climate, when they're also catering price-conscious customers.

TheAssociated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.