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Taco Bell scrambles to respond to beef controversy February 5, 2011

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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Taco Bell launched a major PR campaign at the end of January 2011 to address accusations that its beef products contained only 35% meat. The allegation originated with a class action lawsuit filed against the fast food giant. That story became big news, and forced Taco Bell to take the defensive position. While many PR experts were skeptical that the story would do serious damage to the chain’s profits, others suggested that a forceful response was needed to kill the rumor.

The restaurant chain’s response was honest. Like most kinds of fast-food, Taco Bell suggested, their beef contained some additives to enhance flavor. The company stated that its beef was 88% meat with the remaining 12% being spices, oats, and other ingredients. However, some critics are now pointing out that Taco Bell’s response was poorly executed. As Andrew Gunther wrote on The Huffington Post:

It’s breathtaking but true. Taco Bell admits that its meat is bland — defined as lacking taste, lacking flavor and being insipid. We might speculate as to whether this meat is trim or recovered meat but it’s almost beside the point. Taco Bell is a company that sells us food. It markets its products as tasty. Taco Bell has nutrition calculators and the Taco Bell “drive thru diet” website to help plan our intake. But in this one statement the company has admitted that it uses ingredients that lack key requirements that we all know are crucial in preparing healthy, nutritious, and enjoyable food.

For more on this story, see the following segment from CBS News:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why did the accusations against Taco Bell have legs? In other words, why were so many people amused about the story?

2.  Was Taco Bell’s response effective? Why, or why not?

3.  Assuming that Andrew Gunther was right, what might have been a better way for Taco Bell to respond?

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