Jan 31, 2011

88% Meat!!!

In 1993, we were all treated to a cinema classic when Demolition Man exploded onto movie screens.  It was a fun movie, to be sure.  Completely implausible, but fun.  It featured some big names actors - several who would even get award nominations and victories in future years.  The soundtrack was by Sting.  Like I said, fun movie.  Here's its IMDB page, if you are interested.  The basic story was a modern supercop (Sylvester Stallone, of course) was convicted of wrongfully killing an apartment complex full of people.  He was sentenced to cryogenic prison - he was frozen.  Many years later he is unfrozen in the sissified future to capture a violent criminal (Wesley Snipes) who had somehow escaped from this cryo-prison.  The future was pretty bizarre, played for laughs, and completely impossible to imagine.  In one of the more ridiculous examples of this future, everyone keeps talking about going to Taco Bell, like it is this big awesome deal.  Stallone's cop finally can't take it anymore and wonders why.  His partner (Sandra Bullock) explains that Taco Bell was the only restaurant that survived the "Fast Food Wars."  Every restaurant was now Taco Bell.

It really was one of the more brazen (and brilliant) product placements in movie history.  And it paved the way for Happy Gilmore to supercharge his golf swing with Subway subs, as well as allowed Tony Stark to demand Burger King after his release/escape from prison.  It also allowed for Taco Bell to develop one of their special combo meals that they are so known for.  Back then, Taco Bell was not really into that, yet.  This was one of their first big combo efforts.  Later, it would be replicated with their tie in with Congo and the "Volcano Combo."  It even led to the stupid Star Wars Episode I tie in with sister chains KFC and Pizza Hut.  Now, Taco Bell always has some kind of combo going that's tied in to something.  But, back then, it was unique.  I remember many times ordering the Demolition Man Combo.  Then I would go back to my dorm and become a demolition man in the bathroom.  Good fun.

I thought of this the other day when Taco Bell's plans to become the only restaurant on earth took a severe blow when it was sued for making the egregious claim that it used "meat" in its food.  Details of the lawsuit can be found here.  The basics of the suit is that Taco Bell is supposedly not meeting federal standards for "meat" by adding fillers, oats, water, circus peanuts to their beef.  "Attorney Dee Miles said the meat mixture contained just 35 percent beef, with the remaining 65 percent containing water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch."  Amazingly, the suit does not want Taco Bell to stop this practice.  Rather, it wants them to now call their product "meat mixture" rather than "beef."

Taco Bell, naturally, did not take this sitting down on the toilet.  (They obviously don't eat their own products.)  They fired back with a threat of a countersuit and explained that "yuh huh" their meat is really animal.  They even have put up posters in their restaurants with the bold statement "THANK YOU FOR SUING US!"  If you read the poster - which I did yesterday at our visit to Taco Bell - it claims that their meat is actually 88% percent meat, and then only 12% other stuff.  SO THERE!!! HA HA!  They showed you!  You lying rat fishturds.  Eighty eight percent!  Eighty eight percent!

Waaaaait a minute...

Bragging that your meat is 88% meat is kind of like FSU bragging that 9 out of 10 of their male students obtain permission before engaging in sexual activity with someone.  "FSU!!!  Now with only 10% rapists!!!"  [Real fact from this website.]  Taco Bell even went on to list the rest of the stuff in their food.
"We start with USDA-inspected quality beef (88%)," Taco Bell said in an ad signed by company president Greg Creed. "Then add water to keep it juicy and moist (3%). Mix in Mexican spices and flavors including salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, sugar, garlic powder and cocoa powder (4%). Combine a little oats, caramelized sugar, yeast, citric acid and other ingredients that contribute to the flavor, moisture, consistency and quality of our seasoned beef."  [That last category is 5%, since they didn't state it.]
Way to go Taco Bell!!  The poster actually says that they use the same USDA beef that we would use at home.  Doubtful.  See, I usually use a 93/7 beef to fat kind of meat.  If I'm buying for bulk, I'll use the 90/10 from Sam's.  I severely doubt the Mexican Phone Company is going to cough up that kind of money.  My guess is that the BEST they use is an 80/20 blend of ground chuck.  They may even have some other option we don't - like a 70/30 one.  NOW WITH MORE HOOF!!!  So, that 88% number is obviously not correct.  Let's say they use a 80/20 - being kind and all.  Using simple math, that means that the real "meat" percent is actually closer to 70%, with 18% being fat, 3% being water, 4% being spices , and 5% being oats, sugar, gym mats, batting, recycled tennis shoes.  (The truth of what they use is far more disturbing and uses the words "Cutter Grade.")

Now, if Taco Bell's numbers are right, they aren't too bad.  If you were make taco meat at home, your numbers actually would be worse.  Take one pound of ground beef (16 ounces), a packet of spices (1.25 ounces), and 3/4 cup of water (about 6 ounces).  The percents for that would be meat 69%, spices 5%, and water 26%.  Of course, some of the water and some of the fat cooks out, so those numbers would be quite different.  [Most of the time, I don't use water when I make it.  Just to share.]

I, for one, don't believe Taco Bell's numbers for a minute.  From what I noticed, no one was surprised at the original lawsuit and accusations.  People have heard bad things about fast food for years.  I have been told numerous times that Taco Bell's meat is a lower USDA grade than cat food.  This article actually shows one man's research into that claim.  [My favorite line in it is "it is all cow meat and by law cannot contain cow organs or tendons or hooves or anything except cow meat."]  This doesn't surprise me.  We know this.  There is a part of our mind that has accepted this.  We know that there is no way McDonald's has served all the hamburgers it claims to if they were all actually 100% meat.  We honestly don't expect it.  So what if they use "mechanically separated chicken" or cow meat as long it doesn't have hoof in it.  I actually have an easier time believing the lawsuit numbers instead of Taco Bell's.

Even if their numbers are accurate, the fact remains that the quality of their meat is hardly even comparable to what we would use at home.  To try to claim that their stuff is just like ours is insulting.  What the lawsuit against the Bell will probably try to do is to point out that the 88% number is not truly all meat - going by what else goes into its creation.  It's another example of a major corporation getting caught skating the line and then retaliating with spin doctors and lawsuits and bluster.  It's like when Denny's was accused of being racist, which then prompted them to do a similar "thanks for suing us" campaign.  It was something like, "Thanks for reminding us of what is important.  Thanks for reminding us that we should remember what elementary kids have hammered home every day - to not judge people by the color of their skin when they just want some pancakes."  Then they put plaques up in every store assuring us that they don't discriminate.

Look, we know how this is going to end.  Taco Bell is going to make some token apology.  They'll print a bunch of new posters to convince us they are "working harder."  They'll pay some people off, fire some executives.  The lawsuit will be a distant memory and Taco Bell won't go anywhere.  They may see some dip in sales for a few weeks.  But not every restaurant is open for "Fourth Meal" - or, as FSU students call it, "When the Munchies Kick In."  People won't stop going there because they don't care.  Like I said, no one was stunned by this news.  People will keep on thinking outside the bun and scarfing down cheap tacos and gorditas.  And Taco Bell can continue their quest for fast food domination.  I just ask that they don't insult me by bragging about the mediocre way they are doing business.  Don't throw "88%" in my face, like I'm supposed to be impressed.  You're Taco Bell.  You're disgusting.  You are not some authentic Mexican place with fresh hearty ingredients.  Don't pretend to be so.  Take your lumps, do what you have to do.  And then get back to what you do best - developing big combos, negotiating movie tie-ins, cooking crappy food, and thinking about how to save our future - with or without a defrosted Sly Stallone.

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