Taco Bell’s “Beef” Taco Filling Isn’t

Image: Dario D., who did a fantastic fast-food ad vs. reality photo project on Alphaila.

If you’ve seen the ingredients list for Taco Bell’s taco meat filling lately–most people don’t–you won’t see much actual meat. That’s why Alabama lawyers are suing the company for false advertising. When you only have 36% beef in your meat filling, it turns out you’re not only violating USDA rules, which require a minimum of 40%, but mislarding misleading customers by calling it beef. Gizmodo elucidates:

The list of ingredients (Ed.: in Taco Bell’s meat taco filling) is gruesome:

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.

According to the USDA, you can’t call this “beef” at all. Beef is defined as “flesh of cattle”. 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.

The fact is that the containers in which the taco mud arrives to their establishments is labeled as “taco meat filling,” which is exactly how it should be labeled in all advertising and packaging according to the USDA. Of course, new Double Decker with Two Time More Taco Meat Filling doesn’t sound very good.

The lawyers want Taco Bell to stop advertising their taco filling as beef immediately, and educate consumers about the change, according to Westword.

Oats, wheat, spices and thickeners aren’t the worst things that Taco Bell could add to its meat mix, but the lawyers are right that it’s violating USDA standards. How about “meaty taco filling?”

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.