Hooray, I say, for Taco Bell's not entirely beef tacos!
Yes, there's a hullabaloo going on, a class-action lawsuit even, claiming that the beef makes up only 35 percent of the taco filling. Taco Bell, on the other hand, says its mixture is 88 percent beef and 12 percent seasonings and such. The company pointed this out in full-page newspaper ads Friday titled, "Thanks for suing us. Here's the truth about our seasoned beef."
I say the meat mix may be why the tacos seem so tasty to me.
No, I'm not a vegan as a recent e-mailer accused, or even a vegetarian. In fact, I love a well-aged, filet mignon on the rare side of medium-rare now and then, kept to six ounces or less.
When it comes to fast food, though, I'm not sure more beef is better.
Check out the ingredients in Taco Bell's "seasoned ground beef," which, along with cheddar cheese, lettuce and taco shells, make up the taco:
"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. CONTAINS SOYBEAN, WHEAT"
Where I grew up in the Midwest, including oats in the meatloaf or even burgers to stretch the ground beef was par for the course. And now living in Boulder, Colo., I'm all good with oats and soy in my tacos, though I should note that Taco Bell's president says the oats and such are for seasoning and texture, not filler.
It has been eons since I ate a burger at McDonald's or Wendy's or, frankly, similar places. But the beef against Taco Bell has me comparing the nutrition facts.
My once-a month or so Taco Bell meal is always the same: two tacos
and an order of basic nachos
, with four bags of hot sauce split between the tacos. Sans the hot sauce, the calories add up to 620, with 330 from fat.
I might be better off eating a regular cheeseburger and small fries from McDonald's
, with a total calorie count of 530, 210 from fat. At Wendy's
, a single burger with cheese and small fries would set me back 780 calories, with 330 calories from fat. All three meals have plenty of sodium, 960 milligrams from my Taco meal, 910 from the McDonald's meal and 1,260 milligrams from Wendy's. Both McDonald's and Wendy's burgers include a small amount of transfat, the type of fat that's really bad for your heart. Taco Bell's tacos have none of that sort of fat.
Those tacos do have plenty of spicy seasoning though, and I'm with Taco Bell President Greg Creed, as he says in the company's full page ad: "Plain ground beef tastes boring."
As for the "where's the beef?" lawsuit, well, it's not that much of a story, according to Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public interest
, which researches and monitors food issues. "See Taco Bell's assertion [is] that the plaintiff's contention that the filling is less than 40% beef is pure malarky," Jacobson writes in an e-mail.
I'd be OK with even less than 88 percent beef in my tacos. As long as there's plenty of cheese and extra hot sauce, who cares where the beef is?