I am not a foodie. (If you have to paint me in a box go with trekkie.) I know I’ve written about food a lot lately. It’s just this naive bleef that we have a right to know what we eat. And that increasingly the people who make food are seemingly at cross-purposes to that deceptively simple objective. (And sometimes cross-porpoises but that’s another story.)
Take Taco Bell, for example. (Figuratively, not literally, I hope.) A while back there was a hubbub that Taco Bell’s “seasoned beef” was rumored to be 35% beef and 65% other stuff. (Taco Bell eschews the word “filler.”)
Well, Taco Bell wants you to know the truth. They are proud to announced that their “seasoned beef” product is a whopping 88% beef and only 12% other stuff.
Forget about the daily grind, it’s time for an afternoon party! 88% is pretty damn good! Hot mess good. If only we could achieve that standard for everything in life.
Taco Bell, deeply wounded by those nasty 35% allegations, wants to set the record straight. At least as straight as your small intestine. LOLZ! What a load of tripe!
So they went and made a snazzy and informative website to straighten things out. It’s hip with a conversational tone and injected with at least 12% of snark.
Is it just me or is eating at Taco Bell strangely similar to playing a game of Jeopardy? Ah, I get it. Irony. Well played.
I’m as open-minded as the next guy, so I decided to delve right in. Let’s click the button that says, “Is it Grade D meat?”
Okay, but I’ve heard you use Grade D meat. Is that why it’s so cheap?
Although that’s funny, the answer is NO. In fact, there’s no such grade given by the USDA for beef. We use the same quality beef used in all ground beef (like you’d find in the grocery store) – only USDA-inspected, 100% premium real beef, period. We’re one of the largest beef buyers in the U.S. Every year, we buy about 300 million pounds of seasoned beef. Since we buy in bulk, we’re able to secure some of the best prices, which we pass along to you.
Source: Official Taco Bell website
“Funny.” See? More LOLZ!
But wait. What’s really being said here? Maybe we should go further than face value and try thinking critically. What can be learned from this text?
Taco Bell is quick to point out that there’s no such thing as “Grade D” beef. Then they go on to claim that what they use is “quality” and “USDA-inspected, 100% premium real beef.” Let’s break it down:
- Quality: A word with no legal meaning in the context of beef grading.
- USDA-inspected: “All meat transported and sold in interstate commerce must be federally inspected.” Source: USDA.gov. In other words, this phrase, although it sounds lofty, means absolutely nothing. It’s something that’s already true all of the time.
- Premium: “… as far as the food industry is concerned, is a completely unregulated word that companies are allowed to slap on anything, from an actual steak to membranes and gristle stapled together, yet the study proves we’re eager to pay 5 percent more for a piece of meat with that nebulous adjective attached to it, because we are, generally speaking, idiots.” Source: Cracked.com. Yep. Just like “Grade D” is not a USDA grade of beef, either is “Premium.” Taco Bell is trying to bamboozle you with this word.
- Real: This one confuses even me. What does that even mean? “It exists and takes up space in the universe.” Wow. What a selling point! Isn’t that axiomatic? Although I feel quite sure Taco Bell would sell “nothing” if they could get away with it. (If interested, check eBay. Nothing periodically is available. I’ve seen it go as high as $15.)
Am I to believe that Taco Bell built a fancy (other fake marketing word found on things like on your ketchup) website that doesn’t actually impart any meaningful information? Where’s the beef?
It turns out the USDA does provide real grades of beef. Such as Prime, Choice and Select. Additionally, there is a dizzying array of additional categorization that can be legally enumerated to Nth degrees.
Beef Quality Grades
A quality grade is a composite evaluation of factors that affect palatability of meat (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor). These factors include carcass maturity, firmness, texture, and color of lean, and the amount and distribution of marbling within the lean. Beef carcass quality grading is based on (1) degree of marbling and (2) degree of maturity.
Interesting. It turns out that beef comes from something known as “beef carcass” (you didn’t hear that from me). Now that’s a term not heard all that often in fast food advertisements!
It turns out that beef is graded on things like marbling, maturity, and skeletal ossification. I count no less than 16 different “USDA Quality Grades” ranging from Prime to Choice to Select to Standard to Commercial to, the fun one, Utility.
Taco Bell chooses not to share the actual USDA Quality Grade on their informative website, opting instead to use meaningless marketing words meant to deceive and obfuscate their customers. Why? Why doesn’t Taco Bell reveal the real grade of their beef? That’s the heart of the matter.
From this, I guess, we can infer how Taco Bell really feels about us: Slow-moving, dull-eyed, dim-witted and chewing our cuds.