Stomachs around America are turning at the news that Taco Bell meat is the source of a lawsuit because Taco Bell is using the word “beef” to describe something that doesn’t exactly fit the definition in their tacos and burritos. Of course, fast food restaurants are often the subject of rumors about what’s in their food that often prove to be false. You may remember an e-mail going around a few years back claiming that Kentucky Fried Chicken had changed their name to KFC because they couldn’t legally claim that what they served was chicken? That turned out not to be true, so is Taco Bell innocent, too?
Well, as it turns out, what Taco Bell is calling “ground beef” is only 36% beef. So what’s in the rest of it? Here’s a list:
Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.
Some of that is pretty harmless and has a clear purpose- chili pepper, onion powder, garlic powder. But most of that- like water, oat product, and wheat is just empty filler. According to the USDA, all this filler means that it can’t be sold as ground beef. In the end, it could be worse- most of us aren’t repulsed by oats. But at the same time, if Taco Bell is selling something as beef, it’s fair to expect it to be mostly beef.