Ever since people started asking "what the hell is in this?" there have been concerns over meat quality in food. Looking back to my youth, one of the funniest moments on The Simpsons (okay, maybe in the top 1,000 funniest moments) involved concern over the quality of school lunches with a clip of the cafeteria lunch-lady shoving gym mats through a meat grinder exclaiming, "there's very little meat in these gym mats!"
But much like many things referenced in that amazing show, it was (to some extent) true to life. In many instances, there is no telling what may be in your meal. Most fast food joints have one philosophy and that is to get the customer in, out and fed, as quickly as possible. While this may be achievable, I always remember my first boss telling me that with any job it can be done three ways: fast, cheap and well, but you can only pick two, as having all three is impossible. It stands to reason that something done cheap and well will not be fast, and that anything done fast and well will not be cheap. With fast food, the food is cheap, and "fast" is in the name, and if you've ever eaten it, it certainly isn't good. With all that in mind however, much like burns and murders, there are different degrees of bad when it comes to fast food meat. Ages ago there were phrases such as Grade D and Grade F meat, but in reality, the United States Department of Agriculture uses terms like "Prime", "Choice", "Select" and "Standard" for decent cuts of beef, and "Utility" and "Canner" for the less desirable parts. Unfortunately, these grades are only issued if a meat production company requests the USDA issue such an evaluation, so most beef (poultry is a slightly different story) is just looked at from a "pass or fail" standpoint.
There is also the discussion on what kinds of additives, antibiotics and fertilizers make their way into the meat. These can all be hazardous to human health, much like "pink slime". If you aren't familiar with the term, it refers to finely textured beef, a product that was widely used in fast food for years, and is treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. There is some controversy over whether or not it is safe for human consumption and many chains have removed the product from their beef. The product came back in popularity again in 2014, due to beef prices, but no restaurant has admitted to using it again.
With all this clarification out of the way, here is our list of fast food chains that use shockingly poor quality meat. Quality consists not only of what the meat is like before processing, but also the amount of antibiotics and chemicals and how much of it is pink slime. For those of you looking for fast food joints that actually make borderline passable food, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A both use decent meat that is without antibiotics (Chipotle) and headed for "without antibiotics" status.
Arby's is one of those products that is well-intentioned but has turned out to be a truly repulsive product. Looking at it, however, there is no problem until you scrutinize the details of the food. The roast beef is probably the food for which they are most famous, and while it is beef, it's loaded with chemicals, some of which may cause cancer, and others that may cause respiratory distress. Obviously these are not in large amounts, but when cancer and breathing problems are involved, a little may be too much.
With regard to what I meant when I said "well-intentioned" above, I should clarify. Arby's is trying to be a diamond in the rough among fast food chains, offering sandwiches with slices of meat rather than just the standard "fried chicken or burger" routine. Unfortunately, their food is loaded with antibiotics and chemicals. There have been rumors for ages about Arby's meat being sludge that gets cooked and held together with meat glue, but those are false. It is real beef and does not show up to the restaurant as gel. With that said, the meat is by no means top tier. In short, Arby's has the best of the worst in terms of meat quality.
9 Domino's Pizza
The only pizza chain on this list, Domino's is the king of putting processed meats on their pizzas. Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Little Caesar's are by no means saintly, but every single meat product that makes its way into a Domino's pie is heavily processed. There is little if any information available as to what the state of the meat is before Domino's gets their hands on it, but logic indicates that all chicken, beef and sausage are pumped full of antibiotics before they are anywhere near a pizza. In the processing phase, these toppings are loaded up with msg and msg related products such as disodium inosinate, an msg enhancer considered harmful to human consumption. Add this to basic salt and nitrites, which many pizza joints use in their products.
But with all this in mind, who is looking at a Domino's menu thinking "alright, time for something that will lengthen my life?"
While Wendy's has set itself apart from Burger King and McDonald's (spoiler alert: more on them later) it is by no means a healthy product. Of the largest fast food chains out there, the meat is not particularly bad but it has no shortage of antibiotics and there is suspicion about fertilizers. The meat served at Wendy's is not the worst out there, but it is low quality beef and the chicken in their nuggets is barely chicken. The thing that should worry most people about Wendy's is the availability of the Baconator and products such as the Cheesy Cheddar Burger, a pair of artery clogging abominations with absurd amounts of salt and calories.
Sonic is basically in the same league as Wendy's. They are not serving the worst food of all time, but they are serving beef and chicken that is heavily processed and riddled with antibiotics and other garbage nobody should want oozing through their blood stream. Their hot dogs are amazing, and among the tastiest around, but that isn't saying much, as hot dogs are just tubes of the lowest quality meat cleared for human consumption.
If you've ever eaten at McDonald's, you know exactly why they're on the list. Yes their burgers are made with 100% real beef, but that word "WITH" is the big, important one in this tirade. Admittedly, the chain stopped using the dreaded pink slime, but the meat is loaded with antibiotics, along with cows used for the beef having been fed via CAFO or concentrated animal feeding operation. Animals fed in this manner generally suffer from poor health and require tons of antibiotics as a result.
With regard to their chicken products, I find it both inappropriate and disrespectful to call them chicken products. There is definitely some chicken in there, but it is universally believed to be poorly treated, badly raised, pumped full of drugs and fed garbage. While these products do contain chicken, they are mostly corn related products and other things barely suitable for human consumption. McDonald's has indicated that they are in the process of eliminating antibiotics to their beef but their timeline looks uncertain.
Every time I eat a Subway sandwich (cold cut combo with pickles, both kinds of olives, tomatoes, hot peppers and house dressing) it's delicious but I only consider it a healthy choice for an eighth of a second, and then I get back to feeling bad about myself.
Subway's spokesperson Jared Fogle is also a spokesperson for a lie-factory. They've been pretending for years that their food is healthy and of the highest quality, but many of their products are obscenely processed and their bread used to contain a chemical, azodicarbonamide, that is also found in yoga mats and other similar products. They pledged to remove this chemical from their bread last year.
The meat is still a chemically constructed mess however. The chicken patties contain about as much chicken as McDonald's nuggets. Looking toward the cold cuts, the Italian BMT has three types of meat: black forest ham, salami and pepperoni. Between these three meats, there are 55 chemicals. The troubling garbage that goes into these meats has been linked to several types of cancer, organ diseases and diabetes.
4 Burger King
Burger King is by no means the worst out there in terms of its meat but their quality control is beyond suspect. I have no problem with the idea of eating horse meat or a horse burger, as horse meat is delicious and contains a high percentage of protein. But when customers are looking for a beef burger and are served a beef/horse patty, as occurred back in 2013, it's not ideal.
But regardless of the actual animal used, B.K. meat is essentially the same 100% low quality beef as McDonald's but slightly more pumped full of garbage. They also do not use pink slime (more on that "product" later). But their beef is of the lowest quality that can be approved for human consumption. Much like "Mickey D's" however, the real problem at Burger King is their chicken. It contains slightly more sodium and less actual chicken. Looking at the big picture, Burger King is basically just McDonald's' paint-sniffing little brother. Slightly worse products, with the same basic idea in terms of poor quality food to get customers in, out and addicted.
3 Kentucky Fried Chicken
To my own disappointment, I can't remember the name of the comedian, but one stand up genius indicated that eating out of a bucket (i.e. KFC) is a sign that one has given up. It's a funny observation and pretty spot-on. KFC is one of those restaurants that produces such a greasy abomination of a meal that it makes you feel great for a few minutes but can ruin your entire day.
Admittedly, KFC does not serve chicken as bad as some hoaxes have suggested. These erroneous reports have tried to show that the chain uses only deformed chickens and has been proven false. Their poultry is pretty shoddy however, and while their cooking methods are hazardous, their actual chicken pieces are legitimate drumsticks and thighs. Their chicken sandwich meat and nuggets are similar to those of McDonald's and Burger King, and include 100% chicken along with many other ingredients. The biggest problem is that KFC currently serves chicken with high antibiotic levels and have not pledged to do anything about it. Most other restaurants have promised to stop this practice, but KFC seem not to care.
2 White Castle
While I discussed the use of "pink slime" in the introduction section, none of the restaurants on this list openly use the product. I say "openly" because I refuse to believe that any executive of a fast food chain would admit, in 2015 that his or her product still uses that stuff. Much like every other iconic burger joint on this list, White Castle has been suggested as one that still uses the stuff, but officially says that it doesn't.
With that said, it has been suggested that White Castle still uses it. Eat one of their burgers and the stomach-ache, plus light-headedness, should be more than enough proof that this is a problem. There are plenty of loyal White Castle customers who claim their sliders as the mini kings of the fast food world, but nobody goes because of quality. They go because with enough salt and additives, dog food tastes great.
1 Taco Bell
It only takes one taste of Taco Bell to make you realize that something isn't quite right. At age five, I could tell that while McDonald's was a special treat that was unhealthy, Taco Bell was a whole different ball game, and I am the type of person who will eat absolute garbage from time to time. Taco Bell is not Mexican food. I'm pretty sure Mexicans who are starving wouldn't eat Taco Bell. The meat is of notoriously poor quality, so much so that the former mayor of Mississauga, Canada (near Toronto) banned the chain from building a franchise there.
On top of the poor quality and antibiotic use, the "meat hose" is a real thing, and while it may be a useful implement, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from inspectors and former Taco Bell staff alike that the thing does not get cleaned with the frequency or diligence for which one would hope/expect.