Taco Bell is lucky enough to stand at the intersection of two targets of urban legends: It’s a fast-food chain serving meat, and it serves food associated with Latinx cultures. (Xenophobic food-related urban legends are a whole genre unto themselves.) The same kinds of things people say about McDonald’s burgers have also been said about Taco Bell’s seasoned ground beef, but there’s more.
One lawsuit alleged that the chain’s taco beef was only 36% beef, leading us to speculate what the hell is in the other 64%. (About the only plausible answer would be meat from other animals, or mayyybe textured vegetable protein (TVP). If you’ve ever tried to make chili with TVP, you’ll know it’s not a great substitute.) The lawsuit was eventually dropped, and Taco Bell’s recipe turns out to be beef with a bunch of pretty normal seasonings. There’s soybean oil in the sauce, oat flour to thicken it, nutritional yeast, garlic, and so on.
Another myth is that Taco Bell’s taco beef contains horse meat. This, again, has a kernel of truth: Taco Bells in the United Kingdom were once found to be using meat from a supplier that included “more than 1%” horse meat in the mix. The meat was recalled. (The same supplier had sold the meat to IKEA, too, by the way.) Taco Bells in the U.S. do not use European suppliers, so this was never an issue here.