Getting to the Bottom of Taco Bell's 'Taco Meat'

Categories: Doggy Bag

rsz_tacobell-burrito.jpg
John Birdsall
Taco Bell's Beefy 5-Layer Burrito ($1.39), a sort of paste-within-a-paste.
Taco Bell's getting sued by a California woman pissed that the fast-food chain's beef products contain so little actual meat, they're guilty of false advertising. The L.A. Times explains:
The class-action suit, which does not ask for money, objects to Taco Bell calling its products "seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef, when in fact a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef." It says Taco Bell's ground beef is made of such components as water, isolated oat product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate, as well as some beef and seasonings.
The attorney alleges that only 15 percent of Taco Bell's ground beef-like substance is actually even protein, and just over a third if it is even a solid ― the rest is some sort of starchy slurry, apparently.

SFoodie set out to do a little journalistic investigation. First stop: Taco Bell's website, which claims that the chain's "taco meat" is "made from" USDA-inspected beef. That "made from" part is troubling, but don't worry ― at least it never sees the inside of a freezer:

It tastes great because it's simmered in 12 authentic seasonings and spices and is never frozen. Moreover, our taco meat is leaner than what you'll find in a restaurant-cooked hamburger because of the unique way that we prepare our taco meat and remove fat.
To test that taste claim, SFoodie's second stop was the Taco Bell at Duboce and Guerrero for the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito ($1.39), figuring anything that made such a confident claim for meatiness would have to deliver. Wouldn't it?

Taco Bell
How the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito is supposed to look ― note the plush layer of craggy-looking "taco meat."
​But while the website shows the B5LB like this (pictured at right) ― a fat layer of nubbly-looking ground meat with gooey cushioning, ours looked literally like brown mush seeping rubbery golden cheese, with a pale, stretchy "tortilla" exoskeleton (see above). No visible meat, "isolated oat product" or otherwise. At first we thought somebody screwed up our order, but no, the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito this was, even though you could really only grant it three layers. And the taste? Satisfying like Doritos seasoning powder, salty and oddly prickly in the throat.

Actually, Yum Brands did issue a statement to Alabama television station WSFA-TV, the Times reports. It said in part, "Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value." Value, sure. But "Mexican inspired"? Now that's false advertising. Somebody ought to sue.

Update 4:25 p.m.: Yum Foods noticed our post and asked SFoodie to update with the following statement:

"TACO BELL STATEMENT REGARDING CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

'At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods. We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef. Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture. We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website. Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later -- and got their "facts" absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food.'

Greg Creed
President and Chief Concept Officer
Taco Bell Corp."



Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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19 comments
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Malecarolina
Malecarolina

I have noticed that the Mexican guys at the construction sites I have worked for the last 5 years seem to love Taco Bell food products. These guys have eaten real Mexican cuisine since the time they were born. If these fellas like Taco Bell food products... I don't have a problem with them at all.

ben__w
ben__w

That's two statements from Taco Bell today that are high on indignant bluster about the lawsuit's claim, but suspiciously low on, you know, actually denying it.

Charlie Wollborg
Charlie Wollborg

Out: Carne asada. In: Carne treinta y seis.

With less than 36% beef, I think there's more oats in my taco than my granola bar. Will I still eat at Taco Bell? That depends: what percentage of the chicken is chicken?

We had a little fun remixing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with the Taco Bell lawsuit last night: http://t.co/hX6ADMiEXCLUSIVE: Footage of standoff between Alabama lawyers & Taco Bell executives outside the courthouse.

Matt
Matt

If you eat at Taco Bell you clearly don't give a crap what's in your food anyway.

scallywag
scallywag

One day, when you’re sitting on the toilet don’t be surprised as you tend to mother nature that a tailgate from a Chevy Chase coated in maltodextrin and sodium phosphates comes oozing down the tile floor. Because if it does- you’ll be glad you found it at Taco Bell.

Shouldn’t you order a beef “TACO BELL” soon?

http://scallywagandvagabond.co...

digusted lawyer
digusted lawyer

lol, if you dont like it dont eat there...but I guess Amanda Obney cant get her $20 and increase the cost of a quick bite for the rest of us. Nothing like a bunch of lawyers looking ofr the gravy train...hmmm move over ambulance chasers the gravy train is coming....lol... they might have better luck sueing for making coffee too cold or too hot...or may be tea... I ordered hot tea once, OMG it was actually hot wheres a gravy train lawyer when you need one!!!!

DMND^CTTR
DMND^CTTR

Makes me hungry for taco bell. Yum.

KB Home Sucks
KB Home Sucks

TACO BELL and KB Home get less than you pay for? Melissa Lora is the currently a Board of Director for KB Home Inc and the Chief Financial Officer of TACO BELL. On Wikipedia Taco Bell’s bio has no mention of Lora who sits on KB Home Board of Directors? Clearly Melissa Lora does not want to be associated with one of the nation’s largest builders? Melissa Lora. CFO at Taco Bell Corp. Orange County, California

Melissa Lora does not have a biography on TACO BELL's Official Website? No one in management at TACO BELL has a bio on their website. Are they hiding? Another reputation issue since the food poisoning outbreak TACO BELL’s E. coli bacteria was famous for? In March 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) won a landmark victory in its national boycott of Taco Bell for human rights. KB Home uses undocumented workers to build its homes? Taco Bell? A lawsuit filed in 2011 alleges that Taco Bell beef is comprised of less than 35% beef. We’ve seen the goop, it pours out of a bag like dried brown flour that coagulates into something that looks like ground beef when water is added.

Currently, Ms. Lora serves on the following boards:

* KB Home * Taco Bell, YUM Brands * Discovery Science Center

Other distinguished KB Home Board members include Melissa Lora's buddy Bruce Karatz who was just convicted as a felon and is currently under house arrest in his 24 room Bel-Air Mansion (not built by KB Home) serving out his 8 months home confinement for swindling 11 Million Dollars. Martha Stewart is a spokesperson for KB Home also served time for her former stock swindle. Gary A. Ray head of KB Home human resources is a convicted felon in this current stock swindle.

Melissa Lora and KB Home built this lemon with Bruce Karatz. KB Home is under a Federal Trade Commission Consent Order. KB Home must buy back your home if not 100% satisfied within the first year? Melissa Lora has never responded as KB Home Board of Directors to any customer complaint letter sent to him by certified mail. KB Home sells Lemons, Just Google Melissa Lora.. http://preview.tinyurl.com/6bu...Seems the entire management of both KB Home and TACO BELL has an image problem? Not mentioning their Chief Financial Officer's proud accomplishments at KB Home. Where's the BEEF in my poorly constructed KB Home? Both are misleading the public and getting less than they paid for. The only difference is TACO BELL exits after 24 hours; KB Home continues to give you irritable bowel syndrome. Should I be thinking outside of my bun? Taco Bell is a part of Yum! Brands, Inc. (“Yum Brands”). Yum Brands includes: Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC U.S. Properties, Inc., Taco Bell Corp., Pizza Hut, Inc., Long John Silver’s, Inc., A&W Restaurants, Inc., WingStreet, LLC, and Yum Restaurants International, Inc. She has been a Director at KB Home since 04/2004. She serves on the Taco Bell National Purchasing Co-Op Board of Directors and is a Member of the Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-Op as well as the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California. Are they all ripping you off?

"Our government, through the USDA and FDA, provides definitions, standards and labeling guidelines for 'ground beef.' Just like the FTC is enforcing the 1979 FTC Consent order Against KB Home. Yeah Right!

old nassau'67
old nassau'67

Chief "Concept" Officer? Another Winston Smith (protagonist in Orwell's 1984). Apparently, Taco Bell is more interested in idea, rather than fact. Needs to change the "e" to a "u".

Joy
Joy

I love Taco Bell tacos - but reading the ingreients on their website just now, I was suprised. Since when are oats a seasoning? Chili podwer? sure, onion, that's a seasoning too...but oats are not a seasoning. They're filler, plain and simpleOr as Justine stated, they soak up the fat. Ick.

Tetimenow
Tetimenow

it's junk no matter how ya cut it, why brother?

Elane
Elane

My favorite part is "starts with". What, precisely, does it end with? I don't eat beef; maybe you don't either.

Justine
Justine

I managed a competing L.A. taco store in 1963 and we made our taco filling on the premises. The recipe included 20 lbs of hamburg (probably 80% lean), a measure of oatmeal (approx 4 cups), a smaller measure of dehydrated onion, salt, and a measure of spicy taco sauce. The hamburg was cooked in a large aluminum pan set over a large gas burner. The other ingredients were added as the hamburg cooked. The purpose of the oatmeal and dehydrated onion was to help incorporate the hamburg fat that would otherwise have floated to the surface. This product was used only for tacos and taco-burgers (loose meat on a bun). Burritos were made with red or green chili consisting of whole chunks of beef. The taco meat passes the five ingredients test and all ingredients were available to the home cook, unlike the manufactured slurry that Taco Bell is trying to pass off as seasoned beef.

DMND^CTTR
DMND^CTTR

Well ma'am you deserve a big hug for that!

Gigabiting
Gigabiting

Maybe less beef is a good thing.Consider the alternative.Most fast food beef is created out of the trimmings and detritus shipped from slaughterhouses around the country and has to be put through a pathogen killing process to get it clean enough to eat.Fake Beef in Taco Ball Tacos. Why all the fuss?http://gigabiting.com/?p=7413/

John
John

I thought the lawsuit hinged on "beef filling" required to be > 40% beef and taco bell's filling riding in at 36%, requiring a slightly different label and advertising.

Paco
Paco

Maybe you should read the news before you blog about it. They did in fact respond before this was posted: They're countersuing. There's more real meat in their tacos than what you think passes for reporting.

Thermaljames
Thermaljames

Maybe you should read the whole article. The last paragraph acknowledges a statement from YUM.

Guy
Guy

Hmmm ... maybe Taco Bell is marketing to the wrong people. Seems like there's more vegetable than meat in their "beef," which would make them popular in the Vegetarian Church. Their low-beef slurry might even be healthier than a typical fatty taco filling.

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