April 30, 2014 4:23 pm

Taco Bell’s mystery beef explained for U.S. customers

Taco Bell’s mystery beef explained for U.S. customers.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Steve Helber

TORONTO – For years, Taco Bell has been telling its customers the beef it serves is 88 per cent “quality beef” and 12 per cent “Signature Recipe,” but its (sometimes vague) Q&A as to what those other ingredients are has only recently garnered attention via its American website.

The Canadian site also shows a list of beef ingredients:

Taco Bell beef ingredients

But to “learn more” about the ingredients and Taco Bell’s meat grade, you need to visit the American site, where the company says ingredients may have “weird names” but that they are “completely safe and approved by the FDA.”

Taco Bell also notes its beef doesn’t contain MSG, or any fillers or extenders to add volume.

Here’s a look at some of its ingredients and explanations.

  • SOY LECITHIN – “When you prepare as much seasoned beef as we do, you don’t want it to separate. That’s what soy lecithin does. It helps (with moisture) to bind substances that would otherwise separate – like oil and water,” said the company.
  • SODIUM PHOSPHATE – “We use them to help make sure our seasoned beef is the right texture. They’re also commonly found in deli items, cheeses, coffee drinks and desserts.”
  • MODIFIED CORN STARCH – “It’s derived from corn, which is a food staple in Mexican culture as well as many others. We use a small amount as a thickener and to maintain moisture in our seasoned beef.”
  • MALTODEXTRIN – “It sounds weird, but it’s actually a form of mildly sweet sugar we use to balance the flavor.”
  • TREHALOSE – “It’s a naturally occurring sugar that we use to improve the taste of our seasoned beef.”
  • LACTIC ACID – “This safe acid occurs in almost all living things, and we use a very small amount to manage the acidity to get the right flavor.”
  • TORULA YEAST – “This is a form of yeast that gives our seasoned beef a more savory taste.”
  • CITRIC ACID – “We use a small percentage in our overall recipe to add brighter flavor.”

Another question posted is: “I heard you use Grade D meat. Is that why it’s so cheap?” to which the company replies the answer is no, and there’s no such grade given by the USDA for beef.

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“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.”

Taco Bell Canada said the American Q&A has been live since 2011, and wasn’t sure why it’s suddenly being covered in the media. A spokesperson was looking into why the explainer is posted on the U.S. site and not on the Canadian site.

Wendy’s spokesperson Bob Bertini said that his company’s hamburgers are made with 100 per cent beef, with “no additives, fillers, preservatives or flavor boosters.”

“We season our hamburgers with salt during the cooking process. That’s it,” wrote Bertini in an email to Global News.

McDonald’s Canada also says it uses 100 per cent “pure Canadian beef” sprinkled with salt and pepper after cooking, with no additives, fillers, binding agents or extra fat in their patties.

Ontario communications manager David Ford said McDonald’s recipes can vary slightly from country to country based on localized tastes, but stressed the “pink slime” (ammonium hydroxide processed beef filler once used in American McDonald’s burgers) has “never been used in McDonald’s Canada.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated upon hearing back from Taco Ball Canada to clarify the American explanation of ingredients has been posted since 2011.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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