Ah, yet again, I find myself wishing I was half as creative in my writing as real life seems to be. Recently, Alabama lawyers brought a lawsuit against Taco Bell, alleging that the meat in their tacos and other food products isn’t really ‘meat’ so much as filler.
Oh, the jokes, jests, and general snide comments that I could make now. Not that I’d be the only one; apparently late night comedy show writers (such as the head writer for the David Letterman show) are planning to make some jokes themselves (and might, by the time you read this, have already made their jokes and other comments; there are advantages to having a late night television show and a team of writers to help you). Yes, there’s plenty of cheap material to be mined.
But I’m going to take the high road instead (and not just because I can’t hope to compete with Letterman). As you might realize from my previous forays into the world of current events, I have a tendency to view almost everything through the eyes of a blogger; fitting, since I am a blogger.
My Advice to Taco Bell
So, what lessons can we take from this particular event? Well, if you’re someone in charge of publicity at Taco Bell, the lesson it seems you’re taking is that the best way to fight back is as aggressively as possible, firing back to media outlets with a sternly worded memo noting that that your meat is all meat, and that you are seeking legal action against the lawyers that brought up the lawsuit in the first place. An impressive action, one that should end all the controversy over this product, right?
Well…not so much. You see, there are pictures like this floating out there:
Yup, that’s ‘taco meat filling’, prominently labeled with Taco Bell’s logo, courtesy of Gizmodo. In case you can’t read it, the first ingredient is beef, but it’s followed immediately by water, and then several other ingredients ranging from seasonings to silicon dioxide (which, unless all my years as a chemist are mistaken, is the same chemical formula as sand). It does seem to give new credence to the Alabama’s lawyers assertion that the meat in Taco Bell’s products doesn’t contain enough beef to be called beef. (And actually, if the assertions that it contains less than 40% beef is in fact true, it’s possible that they shouldn’t legally be able to call it ‘meat, as in ‘taco meat filling’.)
So, here’s my advice to Taco Bell: It seems like you’re falling into something of a Streisand Effect here, where the more you complain and try to hide the truth, the more people want to dig deeper and try to discover what’s got you so riled. If you have been telling the truth, if your beef is in fact 100% beef, then I’d say the time has more than passed to prove it. Sternly worded letters and threats of legal action have this sad tendency to make you look guilty, at least when they aren’t coupled with more substantial proof (especially when, again, your accusers have photographic proof to the contrary).
Now, let’s say you, Taco Bell, have in fact been serving ‘taco meat product’ and calling it beef without sharing the truth with your customers. In this case, there isn’t much that you can do. (Well, alright, you could drag out court battles for years, or attempt to change the law behind the scenes to retroactively prove yourself correct, but well, the less said about what happens if your actions later come to light, the better.) Your best course of action is to admit that you are in the wrong (at least about assertions that your accusers are lying, if nothing else), make the changes to your supply chain that are needed, and promote the change appropriately. You could even use the opportunity to explain why you were using this meat product rather than pure beef in the first place, perhaps even starting a conversation about the costs of food and the pressures of marketing (or perhaps I’ve been reading too many comments on some of these websites).
A Few Final Words
Now, onto some advice for individuals. If you are an avid Taco Bell diner (or a fast food diner in general), you might want to reconsider your eating habits. Consider dining at home; not only can you avoid the possibility that your ‘beef’ is not as beef like as you thought, but you can save money on your dining, as well. (Hey, look, a personal finance tip found its way into my article; how’d that happen?) When you dine out, be more conscious of your eating habits, and take advantage of the resources available to you to eat the sort of meal you want. (Taco Bell’s Ingredient Statement has all the same information about ingredients as the picture on Gizmodo; although, they refer to their meat as seasoned ground beef.)
Whoo, that was quite a lot; it’s good to know that if I can’t make a living as biochemist, there’s plenty of work to be found giving much needed advice to corporations. If celebs (like that rascal 50 Cent) and corporations keep doing these types of things, perhaps I’ll have to start devoting a portion of my blog to advising them (and the people who have to deal with them) on how to get their acts together…