When Taco Bell indicated the beef served in its 6500 restaurants is 88 percent beef, it set alarm bells ringing for some customers. What's the other 12 percent?
ABC News went looking for the answers to questions Taco Bell-ionaires were asking. The network found TacoBell now has an entire page on its website devoted to detailing the mucho non-meat ingredients.
Years back, Wendy's had a "Where's the beef?" campaign that went viral before such a term existed. Taco Bell's explainer answers a variation of that question: "What's the beef?"
The ingredients seem to be in another language, and we don't mean Spanish. The company concedes that while they "do have weird names," they're all "safe and approved by the FDA."
"They're common ingredients also found in food items at your grocery store," the company states. "Many are items you might use at home such as salt, peppers, and spices." The company said other ingredients "make sure the texture is right."
Taco Bell's website detailed the non-beef ingredients in the seasoned beef, which include MALTODEXTRIN, "a form of mildly sweet sugar...use to balance the flavor." TORULA YEAST, which Taco Bell says "gives our seasoned beef a more savory taste." MODIFIED CORN STARCH, used as a thickener and to maintain moisture. SOY LECITHIN, which prevents beef from separating. SODIUM PHOSPHATES, which also addresses texture. TREHALOSE is a naturally occurring sugar used as a seasoning. CARAMEL COLOR AND COCOA POWDER: Caramel color is caramelized sugar. Cocoa powder doesn't add flavor, but helps keep the beef brown. And LACTIC ACID, which Taco Bell says "occurs in almost all living things, we use a very small amount to manage the acidity to get the right flavor."
Taco Bell emphasizes it uses only USDA-inspected, "100 percent premium real beef" and no monosodium glutamate.
The beef news comes as Taco Bell prepares to launch an upscale restaurant chain, U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom. According to the Nation's Restaurant News, entrees will be made from higher-quality ingredients than what's used at Taco Bell, like the Winner Winner, (fried chicken topped with gravy and roasted corn pico de gallo with fresh jalapenos) and the One Percenter (fresh lobster, red cabbage slaw, and pico de gallo). The menu also features steak fries with habanero chili dust and craft beer. As Slate put it, "stuff upwardly mobile millennials like."
If you find the better-tacos-through chemistry discussion to be loco, the Pioneer Press offers a list of a half dozen east metro taco joints that use authentic ingredients. The newspaper makes its recommendations for Monday's Cinco de Mayo, "the celebration of Mexican heritage that for most of us boils down to a spectacular reason to eat Mexican food and drink margaritas." (Pictured: plate from Taqueria Los Ocampo, 95 Arcade St., St. Paul; 1751 Suburban Ave., St. Paul; 809 E Lake St, Minneapolis)