Taco Bell Beef – Perfect for the 64% Vegetarian!
As you may have heard, there has been some controversy over how beefy Taco Bell’s Beef actually is. At first, I was confused as to why this story was getting so much buzz. Is it really that surprising that Taco Bell’s ingredients aren’t locally grown and farm fresh?
The issue lies in the fact that Taco Bell calls its meat Beef to begin with. According to the USDA, you can’t call your food Beef unless it contains the following:
Chopped fresh and/or frozen beef with or without seasoning and without the addition of beef fat as such, shall not contain more than 30 percent fat, and shall not contain added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders.
Here is the ingredient list from Taco Bell’s “Beef”, from the gizmodo blog:
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.
The complaint was filed by a consumer that tested the meat and found it to contain only 36% beef, and 64% other stuff. They believe Taco Bell should change the name of their “Beef” to “Meat Taco Filling”, defined by the USDA as at least 40% fresh meat. Unfortunately, Taco Bell’s “Beef” is only 36% according to this complaint.
Taco Bell’s Australian president thinks otherwise. He says their meat is “88% beef” plus water and flavors:
They have also posted a statement online entitled “Thank you for suing us,” falsifying the claim and threatening to counter-sue.
So who’s lying here? It’s tough to tell so far. As far as I can tell, the USDA has not released any statements confirming or negating these claims.
EIther way, I think it’s a non-issue. People who really care about the quality of their beef probably don’t eat at Taco Bell in the first place. On the upside, vegetarians can eat Taco Bell Beef tacos and not feel terribly bad about it!