I can remember, as a teen, we swore up and down that Taco Bell beef was “kangaroo meat,” or “Grade Q.” Something to that effect. Of course, it’s been an eternity since I last ate anything from Taco Bell, let alone their beef… but I still can’t help but be tickled by this.

Now… I don’t go in too much on fast food… I just say don’t eat it. If you ever wanted a real, true, honest and legitimate reason as to why? Check out the motherlode of processing secrets below.

From Gizmodo:

Taco Bell’s “beef” pseudo-Mexican delicacies are really made of a gross mixture called “Taco Meat Filling” as shown on their big container’s labels, like the one pictured here. The list of ingredients is gruesome. Updated.

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.

It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.

Can you call beef something that looks like ground beef but it’s 64% lots-of-other-stuff? Taco Bell thinks they can.

That’s the reason why an Alabama law firm is presenting a class action lawsuit for false advertising—they are not asking for any money—saying that the fake Mexican food maker should label their processed clustermass of disgust as what it really is in all promotional materials, following USDA laws. It appears that they have a very good point.

According to the USDA, Taco Bell can’t call this mixture “beef” at all. Beef is officially defined as “flesh of cattle”, and ground beef is defined as:

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.

That is certainly nothing like the mix that they are using in their products.

The law firm argues that the meatmud correctly labeled as “taco meat filling” in the industrial packaging should be labeled in exactly the same way in all advertising and packaging, as the USDA mandates. Of course, the All-New Double Decker with Two Times More Taco Meat Filling would not sound very good on TV.

The right to know

Taco Bell’s meat filling looks like ground beef before and after cooking, but it has been augmented with fibers and other substances to keep the price low. That’s how they can offer tacos for 99 cents—and that’s fine: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their processed mixture apart from being gross.

The problem here is that the consumers may believe that this “meat filling” is actually beef while it’s not. If it looks like beef, it’s labeled as beef, and it’s advertised as beef, then it must be beef—except that substance is not beef. It’s just “meat filling”. That could deceive the public, which is why there is a class action lawsuit in the works. Consumers have the right to easily learn what they are eating before making a decision to eat a taco or not, just like they need to know before buying cloned meat or genetically modified vegetables or products containing corn syrup.

The final irony: The USDA says that any food labeled as “meat taco filling” should at least have 40% fresh meat. According to the Alabama law firm, Taco Bell stuff only has 36% meat. Perhaps they should call it Almost Taco Meat Filling. [source]

Now… onto the matter of this lovely lawsuit:

“Where’s the beef?” Wendy’s restaurants once famously asked through its advertising, a swipe at its competitors’ burgers.

The same question is now being asked by a California woman regarding Taco Bell’s beef products, which she claims contain very little meat. So little, in fact, that she’s brought a false-advertising lawsuit against the huge fast-food chain.

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.

Just 35 percent of the taco filling was a solid, and just 15 percent overall was protein, said attorney W. Daniel “Dee” Miles III of the Montgomery, Ala., law firm Beasley Allen, which filed the suit.

“Taco Bell’s definition of ‘seasoned beef’ does not conform to consumers’ reasonable expectation or ordinary meaning of seasoned beef, which is beef and seasonings,” the suit says. Beef is the “flesh of cattle,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“You can’t call it beef by definition,” Miles said. “It’s junk. I wouldn’t eat it.”

Taco Bell, a unit of Yum Brands Inc., did not immediately return a request for comment.

But it told Alabama television station WSFA-TV in a prepared statement: “Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value. We’re happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.”

For many menu choices, customers are given the choice of chicken, beef or carne asada steak as fillings for their Taco Bell products, such as burritos, Gorditas and Chalupas.

“The ‘chicken’ and ‘carne asada steak’ served by Taco Bell is, in fact, chicken and carne asada steak. The ‘seasoned beef,’ however, is not beef,” the suit contends.

Apparently, the industry — and Taco Bell internally — calls the substance “taco meat filling,” avoiding the word “beef,” according to the suit.

However, even that term is supposed to be used for products that are at least 40 percent beef. Taco Bell’s taco filling falls short of that definition too, Miles said.

The suit was filed Jan. 19 in federal court on behalf of Amanda Obney of California. [source]

Their response to all of this is… um, a little disturbing:

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

So… they’re just gonna act like we don’t see the label? They’re gonna act like it’s not all over the Internet? If Tyson made that meat filling… what the hell else is Tyson doing? And what is autolyzed yeast extract doing in their ingredients list?

And one more question… it takes legal action to coerce Taco Bell into considering being truthful? Remember, there’s also this:

The law firm argues that the meatmud correctly labeled as “taco meat filling” in the industrial packaging should be labeled in exactly the same way in all advertising and packaging, as the USDA mandates. Of course, the All-New Double Decker with Two Times More Taco Meat Filling would not sound very good on TV.

What do you think?