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Taco Bell forgets where the beef is


By FRANK PRIESTLEY


For the Capital Press


The fast food chain Taco Bell recently launched a national advertising campaign in retaliation to a lawsuit alleging the company's taco filling isn't beef. In large letters, the advertisements state: "Thank you for suing us. Here's the truth about our seasoned beef."


The Alabama law firm that brought the suit claims it had the taco filling tested and found that it contained only 35 percent beef. Further, the lawsuit alleges Taco Bell's meat mixture contains binders and extenders and does not meet requirements set out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled as beef.


It's no revelation that a 99-cent taco probably doesn't contain the finest grain-fed beef, and most people would concur that for the price, they wouldn't expect it. Taco Bell's advertisements claim the product is 88 percent beef with added water, spices, oats, starch and other ingredients that "contribute to the quality of the product."


Attorneys and public relations experts who have commented to the media on the issue agree the law firm will have a tough time proving the mixture doesn't meet the definition of beef. The courts will have to sort that out, and either way it probably won't affect Taco Bell's image or business much. The chain serves an average of 35 million people a week.


Where we take issue in this matter is centered on Taco Bell's ham-fisted public response, which ran in newspapers around the country, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today. The ads state that ground beef is boring and bland.


To us, describing the main -- or supposed -- main ingredient in a product you are trying to sell as "boring" and "bland" seems counterintuitive. The ad states, "Plain ground beef tastes boring. The only reason we add anything to our beef is to give the meat flavor and quality. Otherwise, we'd end up with nothing more than the bland flavor of ground beef and that doesn't make for great-tasting tacos."


We strongly disagree with this assessment. If the ground beef Taco Bell buys lacks quality, we suggest they explore a different, perhaps domestic source. We also take issue with the negative light this advertisement casts on beef producers.


Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum Brands Inc., which also includes Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's, KFC and A&W, owes U.S. beef producers an apology and until that occurrence, we suggest the making of fast food purchasing decisions accordingly.


Frank Priestley is president of the Idaho Farm Bureau.



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