Hog futures rose 22 percent in the last six weeks before cooling off slightly this week, a rally that was not only attributed mainly to China but also to McDonald´s, according to commodity traders in Chicago.

McDonald’s could have played a role as well. The fast food giant  is bringing back the McRib sandwich through Nov. 14.

The McRib was first introduced in 1982 but had been absent from McDonald’s menus since 1994. But when re-introduced last year the sauce-slathered sandwich created such a sensation that it was given partial credit for a 20 percent rally in hog prices in the second half of 2010.. The retirement and unretirement of the McRib has given this sandwich a mystique that translated into heavy sales last year, with expectations for the same this year.

McDonald’s doesn’t talk about its wholesale buying but the company obviously knows its way around the commodities markets. It’s safe to assume that it already has locked up its pork supplies for the next month to take care of what is expected – based on 2010 response – to be a large surge in McRib consumption.

Iowa has plenty at stake in any bump in pork consumption; the state is the nation’s number one hog producer with more than 19 million animals. Hog sales will bring $6-$8 billion in cash to the state’s economy this year.