Yesterday, the news broke about the class-action lawsuit being filed against Taco Bell by an Alabama law firm, which claims that the fast-food chain engages in false advertising by claiming that its tacos are “beef,” when they allegedly contain just 36% beef — well below the requirements that the U.S. Department of Agriculture sets for a company to label beef as “beef.” (We even did our own post about the juicy scandal, which Taco Bell refutes.) So what comprises the other 64% of its taco meat? According to Taco Bell’s website, its beef also contains things like wheat oats, isolated oat products, and soy products. I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled that Taco Bell’s tacos may in fact only be about one-third actual beef. Personally, I’d much rather eat wheat oats, isolated oat products, and soy products than what Taco Bell considers meat. Why? Well, do you know the provenance of Taco Bell’s beef? I can assure you that it’s not a family-owned, organic, grass-fed beef farm in the pastoral New England countryside. No, I’m thinking more along the lines of high-volume factory farms where cows exist in unspeakably horrific conditions, are treated badly, and are slaughtered inhumanely.
Here’s what Taco Bell President Greg Creed had to say about the class-action lawsuit today on Taco Bell’s website:
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.
Fair enough, Greg. However, not to sound like elitist East-Coast locavore, but I make it a strict policy never to buy any meat (or poultry or fish, for that matter) from the supermarket, for environmental and health reasons. And no USDA sticker on the package is going to make me change my mind. Why am I such a spoiled brat about this? Well, let’s use Tyson Foods as an example, as they provide much of the meat to Taco Bell restaurants. Tyson Foods is the world’s biggest meat producer. And, in addition to your chain supermarket, it also supplies chicken to prisons. (The same chicken, by the way, that goes to every major fast-food corporation, including Taco Bell.) And Tyson foods is no stranger to scandals, controversies, and lawsuits, including, but not limited to: Employing illegal, undocumented immigrants; a less than stellar environmental record; injecting its animals with antibiotics and lying to the general public about it; inhumane slaughtering methods; and racial discrimination cases. (Can you say a “whites only” bathroom door sign in a Tyson plant in Alabama in 2005?) Oops.
Perhaps now you can better appreciate why I don’t consider Tyson Foods to be a “trusted” brand, as Creed so diplomatically phrases it. I don’t want to be anywhere near meat that a company like Tyson Foods is responsible for making. So, if and when I ever patronize a Taco Bell (which I won’t, because I find their food revolting, although I’m not above caving and visiting a Wendy’s drive-thru once a year, which, I know, makes me a hypocrite), I’ll be comforted by the fact that my beef taco does, in fact, contain barely one-third beef. In fact, I hope Taco Bell decides to include less than 36% of Tyson Foods beef in its tacos. Hell, I’d pay more for their tacos if they did that. It’s not that I’m a huge proponent of wheat oats, isolated oat products, and soy products (they present their own environmental and health concerns), but they’ve got to be a slightly less depressing and harmful alternative to the sketchy beef from Tyson Foods. Because even in a beef taco for which you’ve paid good money, I say the less Taco Bell beef you’re actually eating, the better for you, your health, the environment, and all those miserable cows.