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What's the beef about Taco Bell?

Lawsuit demands that the fast-food chain stop calling one of its fillings "seasoned ground beef" because it contains too little meat.

By Karen Datko Jan 26, 2011 9:36PM

Raise your hand if you really think the "ground beef" filling at Taco Bell is 100% beef and nothing else.


OK. So we're guessing you weren't surprised when a new lawsuit claimed there is not enough meat for Taco Bell to legally call the filling "seasoned ground beef" and that it should be identified on the menu and in ads as the less appetizing "taco meat filling." (For more on the contents of "seasoned ground beef," see below.)

Granted, restaurants should be up front about what's in their food. But we have to ask: Do you feel you're getting your money's worth when you plunk down a buck, more or less, for a Taco Bell ground beef burrito?


We looked around the Web for some insight and found plenty.

  • "What, you thought for 69 cents you were getting USDA Prime?" said "Mike" at's Table Hopping blog.
  • From, reader "northendmatt" wrote, "Let's face it, if you're paying 89 cents for a burrito, you really have no grounds for complaint, as long as it's edible."
  • "Kraftownzrevs" added, "Why are all the idiots out there surprised anyway? Where did they think the low prices came from? A magic wand?"

Among the cute and/or clever remarks:

Taco Bell stands behind its product, adding "We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website." Post continues after video.

Here's what that website says, courtesy of Burkett:

Beef, Water, Seasoning [Isolated Oat Product, Salt, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Oats (Wheat), Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Spices, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil (Anti-dusting Agent), Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Silicon Dioxide, Natural Flavors, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphates.

The lawsuit says the USDA "Policy Book" advises that anything called "taco filling" should be no less than 40% fresh meat. Dee Miles, one of the attorneys who filed the suit, said in an interview that Taco Bell doesn't quite meet that standard either.


But some of what's in the "ground beef" might not be so bad, Mike Moffitt wrote at SFGate:

But look at ingredients #3 and #8 -- isolated oat product and oats. Nothing wrong with oats, is there? Oatmeal is a significant source of dietary fiber, which helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Any doctor will tell you that oats are better for you than red meat.

"And why this focus on beef? I'm far more suspect of what Taco Bell tries to pass off as 'steak.' Or why not a class-action suit from Mexicans for what Taco Bell tries to pass off as a Chalupa?" wrote Mike Pomranz at Tosh.0 Blog. (OK, so it's a blog at Comedy Central.)


Note: The lawsuit says the chicken and carne asada steak are, in fact, chicken and carne asada steak. Whew. That's a relief.


Some bloggers took a somewhat more serious approach to the topic:

  • Melissa Bell wrote at The Washington Post's blogPost: "As a longtime eater of Taco Bell food products, I can categorically state that if you've ever had any Taco Bell food product, this news is wholly unsurprising. Delicious? Yes. Real food? No."
  • A blogger at Foodio54 suspects the lawyers are correct. But to what end? If they prevail, could it mean higher prices? (The lawsuit is not seeking damages.) The writer added:
If any lawyers are reading this I'd like to sue Taco Bell for stiffing me on hot sauce packets. Please contact me and I'll tell you a horrible tale of trying to make one tiny packet of hot sauce last for an entire Grill Stuffed Burrito.

What do you think? Should Taco Bell be required to call its "seasoned ground beef" by another name? Do you care? Or are some people taking full disclosure about food too far?


More from MSN Money:

Feb 1, 2011 10:24AM
avatar news for the lawyers...all this did is make me want Taco Bell for lunch! Open-mouthedTongue out LOL
Jan 26, 2011 10:40PM
If it's less than 40% beef, they should call it "Vegetable product seasoned with Beef."  If it's not more than, say, 66% beef, they could call it "Extended Beef."  I just wish they wouldn't "season" it with sodium 3 separate times!
Feb 9, 2011 3:17PM
Whether or not TB is a few percentage points below the USDA limit is, I think, secondary to eye opening fact as to who, when, and why the limit is set so shockingly low.
Feb 9, 2011 1:51PM
We're all getting screwed by our government!  It doesn't matter what product we buy.  Nothing is 100% unless you get a steak and baked potatoe.  A company should not call an item by it's name unless it contains MORE than 66% of it.  If it's good enough for Congress it's good enough for the people.
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