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Confessions from a former Taco Bell Employee

Taco Bell's Mystery Meat

Around the same time the news about the Taco Bell mystery meat lawsuit came out, I had a chance to reminisce with a former Taco Bell co-worker of mine about our days in polyester.


I secretly wish I could be a Taco Bell whistle blower, but unfortunately I can’t even give you an estimate about the actual percentage of beef in Taco Bell’s beef.  When I first started working at Taco Bell, we used actual beef that came in ten-pound tubes and was cooked with a rake-like device over a gas burner. Whoever was cooking the beef had to add the “special seasonings” at the end—cooking the meat wasn’t nearly as bad as cooking the beans because of the splashes from scalding-hot beans which didn’t feel or look so nice on our stylish polyester uniforms—and had to make sure the beef was cooked to the right temperature.


When I came back to work at Taco Bell on a short break from college, the company had graduated from using “real” beef and beans to dehydrated beef and beans, which was quite a difference. Just add water and POOF, there was meat or beans.  This all happened in the back, so none of the customers knew anything about it and for whatever reason, most of the employees at the Taco Bell I worked at didn’t spread too many rumors about our place of work even though we were kind of scared by the idea of dehydrated meat.


We maintained our silence about the switch.



Not so coincidentally, the big change to dehydrated beef and beans coincided with Taco Bell’s “special menu” starting with incredibly cheap tacos at 59 cents. The cheaper price for the tacos definitely reflected in a loss of quality in the meat, but we got busier than ever.



When I worked at Taco Bell, there were more things for the customer to worry about than just the poor ingredients. The Taco Bell I worked at didn’t seem all that particular about its hiring practices-- a common theme at many fast food restaurants. It seemed like anyone over the age of twenty was promoted to a managerial position based on their lack of acne alone.


When customers were rude enough to come in late at night, a few employees would make “special burrito supremes” for them. The special burrito supremes contained all of the required ingredients, but the ingredients weren’t spread out correctly. In the first bite, the customer would taste all onions; the second bite, all dehydrated beef; and the next bite, tomatoes and so on down the burrito, all the way to the last bite. Since the late-night managers weren’t necessarily all that loyal to the company, the employees always got away with it.


I don’t remember any specific instances of anyone spitting in a burrito, but it could definitely happen.