Would you like kale with that? Why McDonald's is going 'healthy.'

McDonald's, known primarily for its burgers and fries, reportedly may introduce Kale to its menu lineup later this year. The move may come as McDonald's attempts to adapt to evolving consumer preferences that place higher priority on high-quality ingredients.

Gene J. Puskar/AP/File
This McDonald's Big Mac could include Kale by next year.

If the reports are correct, pigs must be flying over McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., because the fast-food company known for its greasy burgers, crispy fries, and generously-sized soft drinks is reportedly adding a radical new ingredient to its menu lineup later this year: kale.

That's according to to analysts at Janney Capital Markets, which said, in an internal report, that the surprising move may come as McDonald's attempts to adapt to evolving consumer preferences that place higher priority on high-quality, natural ingredients.

“Possibilities include kale for use in salads, or perhaps a kale smoothie,” analysts reportedly wrote in a note to clients. “More generally, McDonald’s clearly aims to raise consumers’ perception of the quality of its food. Adding kale to the menu in some way could help be a step in this direction.”

News of McDonald's unexpected embrace of the leafy green "superfood" comes on the heels of other healthy changes the fast food giant recently announced.

Last week, McDonald’s announced that it will phase out chickens raised with antibiotics from its US restaurants over the next two years. It will also begin to offer low-fat white milk and fat-free chocolate milk that come from cows not treated with the artificial growth hormone rbST.

(And, on a related note, Burger King recently announced it will drop soft drinks from kids' meals.)

Antibiotic-free chicken, rbST-free milk, and now, kale. What's going on?

As the Monitor's Schuyler Velasco reported last week, McDonald's "announcement comes at a tumultuous time for the company, which has faced falling sales and dwindling customers for years, due to increased competition, a changing industry, and an unshakeable (and acknowledged) two-pronged image problem."

Indeed, the company's stock has been flat for three years, and it just reported on Monday that same-store sales in the US were down 4 percent in February and 1.7 percent worldwide. McDonald's is well aware of its problem.In that same sales release, McDonald’s noted that “consumer needs and preferences have changed, and McDonald’s current performance reflects the urgent need to evolve with today’s consumers.”

McDonald’s added that it must reassert itself “as a modern, progressive burger company.”

Enter: kale, antibiotic-free chicken, and new CEO Steve Easterbrook, who took over the fast food giant earlier this month to help turn it around. Of course, McDonald's has not yet confirmed that it will be adding kale to its menu, as Janney Capital Markets predicted. "As we continue to listen to our customers, we’re always looking at new and different ingredients that they may enjoy," McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb told Business Insider, in response to questions about whether it will introduce kale to its menu.

Nonetheless, news that the fast food chain is considering adding the antioxidant-rich superfood alongside more typical standbys like iceberg lettuce, indicates a significant about-face, considering an ad that the company released earlier this year showing close-up shots of a Big Mac and poking fun at foodies and vegetarians.

"You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa," the ad's narrator chides. "Nor will this ever be kale," he adds as the camera zooms in on the lettuce in a Big Mac sandwich. 

Can kale save McDonald's? As the company learned after its ad was released, never say never.

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