Opinion: Where’s the beef, Taco Bell?

Kyle McDonald

Kyle McDonald

Kyle McDonald is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

What comes to mind when you hear the words, “Taco Bell”?

Right now many of you are probably thinking something along the lines of cheap, yummy goodness or a late-night godsend for drunken munchies.

As of Tuesday, a class-action lawsuit against Taco Bell is claiming the company’s “ground beef” is a little lacking in the meat department. The Alabama law firm filing the suit claims that the fast food giant’s meat, classified as “taco meat filling,” actually contains less than 36 percent meat. Taco Bell is denying the accusation. For a product to even be classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as taco meat filling, it must contain at least 40 percent meat.

I’ll take one cheesy, double taco meat filling burrito to go, please.

I’m more amused than shocked by this news. I can recount hearing rumors as far back as grade school that Taco Bell uses meat one grade below dog food. While this rumor isn’t true, nobody in their right mind would claim Taco Bell’s food quality to be exceptional.

So then, what makes up that other 64 percent of Taco Bell’s meat?

According to the taco meat filler packaging, the meat contains the following: 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 percent of beef broth, potassium phosphate and potassium lactate.

Now, I’m no nutritionist, but it almost seems as though Taco Bell’s meat is healthier by deception. Maybe Taco Bell is doing its customers a favor by substituting beef with oats. Most of the stuff on that ingredients list doesn’t sound too bad. There’s even soybean oil to keep that meat dust-free.

Remember though, I’m no nutritionist, and I’m probably wrong when speculating the healthier potential of Taco Bell.

Honestly though, do Taco Bell consumers really care what is in the stuff? I’ve always perceived eating fast food, especially Taco Bell, as an unspoken surrender of health concerns and dignity. It’s my guess the typical American fast food consumers really won’t care as long as the price of their burrito stays below a buck and tastes the same. Nobody goes on a Taco Bell diet to drop a size or two.

Personally, I gave up eating fast food garbage years ago, after numerous encounters of less-than-quality service. Don’t go assuming I’m a health nut, though. While I don’t eat fast food, I can’t say I make completely healthy dietary choices. I’ll probably eat meat twice a day for the rest of my life and pizza every other day until I’m out of school. Instead of Taco Bell or McDonald’s, I’ve simply decided to sell my dignity to EuroGyro – at least they sell beer, too.