Taco BellToo many undercooked, beef-related puns have been loping around the news media lately -- thanks to a consumer-rights class-action recently filed against Taco Bell (YUM) by an Alabama law firm. According to the complaint, most of what Taco Bell calls "seasoned ground beef" in its ads has hardly any meat in it all – containing mostly fillers such as "isolated oat product," yeast extract, corn starch and other ingredients. That would put Taco Bell's beef below the 40% meat requirement for what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines as "taco meat filling."

But the fast food giant is fighting back. "The lawsuit is bogus and filled with completely inaccurate facts," says a recent Taco Bell statement. "Our seasoned beef recipe contains 88% quality USDA-inspected beef and 12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture. The lawyers got their facts wrong. We take this attack on our quality very seriously and plan to take legal action against them for making false statements about our products."

What's in Processed Meats?

The media is mostly portraying this as a dispute over possible false advertising -- but the Taco Bell story also adds fuel to ongoing arguments over processed meat in general. McDonald's (MCD), for example, added healthier items to its menu after getting unwanted attention about some of its ingredients following the 2004 movie documentary Super-Size Me.

Controversies over processed meats have been in the news for years now -- over issues like the growing use of corn in U.S. food products and the dangers of too much salt, fat and preservatives. But some observers believe it's not necessarily fair to single out Taco Bell over its ingredients.

"Consumers are not completely aware of the ingredients that go into processed meat items," says Dale Woerner, a professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality at Colorado State University's College of Agricultural Sciences. Woerner calls on consumers to read the labels on food products. Most processed meats, he says, contain processed proteins from grains like soy, wheat and rice – which reduce fat content.

And while those non-meat proteins are less expensive and certainly can help a company's bottom line, Woerner says most of those added ingredients have a purpose and not just as filler. "I'm talking about the tenderness or consistency of that product," he notes, "the moisture that that product maintains to give a pleasant eating experience, and also the flavor."

Expecting the Same Burger, Coast-to-Coast

Part of the problem may be that Americans have become accustomed to uniformity in their meals. Most folks expect a burger purchased from a major fast-food chain to taste the same, coast-to-coast, no matter where in the country (or in the world, for that matter) you buy it.

That uniformity, says Woerner, prompts processed-meat producers to work hard at keeping customers happy. "All of these things are factored into a least-cost formulation," he says, "but they're also driven toward a specification for quality. I'm certain, for example, that Taco Bell has done millions of dollars of research on ingredients, and ultimately they are producing a product that's demanded by their customers; in the way of flavor, functionality, mouth-feel, etc."

Consumers, however, are rapidly changing and becoming more health-conscious. As a result, chances are good that even if your guilty pleasure is a quick burger at a fast-food chain, you're going to be getting some nontraditional, low-fat ingredients mixed in with your beef. And for the record, Woerner believes Taco Bell's side of the story.

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Taco Bell is not what it use to be, we all need to be carefull on what we eat and check out where the food comes from. But our Goverment want us to surport other countries, making us eat bad food, food grown with human fertizer, if we eat. We can strave. Our goverment says Human waste to grow our food is good, too much human waste on any one thing will make a human sick or else kill. Like cows was served cows, and there was the mad cow thing.

March 29 2011 at 9:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Bail this out

Yea suuuure. Maybe they did all that testing and texture and taste were a priority ...But then they sold it to china and pffft like many restaurants that get assimilated into franchise..Thier product becomes crap.With all the contaminated toys and products that have been disovered ( How many havent?) its hardly a stretch to believe thhier meats arent really meat either. Save it...You are Busted

March 22 2011 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I do like Taco Bell from time to time but I have to say that the meat content in their burritos is much less that it used to be 20 years ago. The paste inside the Burrito Supreme now resembles more refried beans/sour cream than beef. They used to have a Double Beef Burrito Supreme but they no longer offer it in our area.

March 10 2011 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If the Taco Bell thing grosses you out dont eat at it or any other fast food outlet. They all have there fillers, and dirty little secrets to keep the food tasting the same. Arby's "meat" comes in a liquid state in a bag that is molded at the store. Wendi's used old cooked hamburgers in chili, and a small amount of soy in there burgers to reduce shrinking. McDonald's is always trying to keep one step ahead of the USDA, so that they can clam no fillers but they just look for things that are not considered fillers yet, E.G. spinning the dark out of dark meat chicken to make it white meat (by the way the USDA and FDA said it was a no go for human food) Burger King uses liquid smoke and soy/corn filers; and most liquid smoke comes from trash incinerators, its a byproduct of cleaning the air scrubbers, basically its soot. I learned all of this from friends who worked at those fast food chines, and if you asked me if I would eat at any of those chains; my answer would be yes, with the exception of Burger King I have never liked there food.

And to those who get grossed out at a "cheese gun" or "sour cream gun" I have news for you, its just a innovation to help you get your food quicker, and all fast food outlets have some sort funky way of delivering there topping be it a "condiment udder" or a squeeze bottle but it's still the same stuff you have in your refrigerator at home.

March 01 2011 at 1:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article keeps repeating, like a TB bean burrito.

February 23 2011 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Twenty-five years ago, I thought Taco Bell tacos tasted pretty good. In the past year, I've eaten at Taco Bell twice and both times I thought the meat surely would have been rejected at a dog food factory.

February 02 2011 at 3:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No, there is no Taco Bell! It does not exist. All the places that claim to be Taco Bell locations are fronts for the Catholic Church, in their effort to get you, the less intelligent of the commoners, join their church. Wise up, use what little brain power you have to resist! I know it is all true because the voices in my head tell me it is so. You should be grateful that I share with you.

February 01 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to morosco99's comment

OH THANK YOU GREAT MOROSCO!! I can now be "ONE" with my value meal

February 02 2011 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Any place that uses a caulk gun to apply meat or other food, if that is what you want to call it, I will avoid.

February 01 2011 at 12:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yeeeeuck! In my lifetime, I have eaten (or shall I say tried to eat) TacoBell twice & came to the conclusion that you cannot put Mexican & Fast Food together without horrendous results. I wish more folks would take the time to learn about what they are eating & would make an effort to provide & nourish themselves with foods not laden with preservatives, salt, fat, & all sort of artificial colors, flavors, etc. I know it's hard to set aside money & time to make meals, but when you see the alternatives are not healthy choices, perhaps it can motivate more to choose to make & eat better.

January 31 2011 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

taco bell use to cook their ground beef in a pressure cooker in the store and they didnt drain the fat. They made refried beans too. Now it comes in a box marked taco meat filler and the refried beans are dehydrated now.
They also had a real mission style bell on the roof and they would ring it if you ordered a bell ringer special. What do expect from Mexican food made by Americans
and owned by China..I expect more (fillers) to come. Try a taco truck next time.

January 31 2011 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chris's comment

Chris, Taco Bell use to serve Taco Burgers too. All their beef was cooked there in the store, and yes the fat was drain the fat, beans was dry and cooked in a presure cooker, I once worked at Taco Bell. And they use to have green sauce to go on the maxie malt, they use to add a small dip to make a maxie malt. Yes the change is unreal, and now not as healthy as it use to be. Food coming from California and Mexico is grown with human fertizer, human waste makes food grow faster and larger. All supper markets have this food, thats human eating human. When too much fertizer is added it will kill human and also make humans very sick, recalls are often calling, like the peppers and tomatoes. Because too much human fertizer was added.

March 29 2011 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply