Is the 88% Beef in Taco Bell Products Pure?

Asked April 30, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT

So, recently there was an annoucnemtn by Taco Bell that 88% of it's beef is real beef. My question is, of that 88% how much is beef like one would eat from a steak, vs cartalidge, bone, and other additive. Is Taco Bell allowed to call the 88% pure beef because of a lose definition of what beef is, or is it truely just a combination of beef like you'd get from a steak etc.

Santa Clara County California

2 Responses

Great question! In short - the definition of "beef" in the U.S. is very specific. The 88% beef is the same as a steak, except steaks are a type of beef cut that is tender. Ground beef is made from less tender parts of a bovine. Still muscle as a steak is, but from areas that get lots of work and so are not tender by themselves. That is why we grind them. We copy some official words taken from the USDA on this topic below: From what cuts of beef are ground beef and hamburger made? Generally, ground beef is made from the less tender and less popular cuts of beef. Trimmings from more tender cuts may also be used. Grinding tenderizes the meat and the fat reduces its dryness and improves flavor. Questions about "ground meat" or "hamburger" have always been in the top five food topics of calls to the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline. Here are the most frequently asked questions and information about why ground beef requires careful handling. What's the difference between "hamburger" and "ground beef"? Beef fat may be added to "hamburger," but not "ground beef." A maximum of 30% fat is allowed in either hamburger or ground beef. Both hamburger and ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders, or binders added. The labeling of meat food products must comply with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the meat inspection regulations and labeling policies. Most states and cities set standards for store-packaged ground beef which, by law, cannot be less than Federal standards. If products in retail stores were found to contain more than 30% fat, they would be considered "misbranded" under Federal law. Is ground beef inspected and graded? All meat transported and sold in interstate commerce must be federally inspected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) carries out USDA's responsibilities under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. These laws protect consumers by ensuring that meat products are wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged. Many states have their own inspection programs that are applicable for meats produced and sold within their borders only. State inspection programs must enforce requirements at least equal to those of Federal inspection laws. Ground beef exported to the U.S. from USDA-approved eligible nations must meet all safety standards applied to foods produced in the United States. They must employ equivalent sanitary measures that provide the same level of protection against food hazards as is achieved domestically. Grades are assigned as a standard of quality only. It is voluntary for a company to hire a Federal Grader to certify the quality of its product. Beef grades are USDA Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. They are set by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Most ground beef is not graded.

Wow - thank you so much for answering this! To be honest, both you and David offered some great insight as to what constitutes beef. I know I'm now a more informed consumer - which is a good thing! Also, I'll stay away from anything labeled 'pure beef'!