Fast food myths you probably fell for

Few industries have spawned as many myths and urban legends as fast food. The idea that you can order food and have a whole meal served up within minutes is a bit suspicious, and if you're on the outside looking in, it's easy to believe there has to be some serious corner-cutting going on. Even if you don't want to believe the rumors, there's a certain amount of horrible believability included in most fast food myths, so let's take a crack at debunking some of the ones you've probably heard and may have believed. At least, a little bit.

Taco Bell's meat is only loosely defined as "meat"

Haters gonna hate, and if you listen to Taco Bell haters, you might believe the ground meat in their beef tacos and nachos is something other than actual meat. They've been accused of using everything from an insane amount of fillers to "grade D" beef.

None of it is true, and Taco Bell even posted a statement saying so on their website (it's no longer there). The statement said their beef was actually 88 percent beef and 12 percent other products, and you're thinking that's where the nastiness comes in, aren't you? According to USA Today, those ingredients are things like trehalose and tortula yeast. They asked registered dietitian Katherine Tallmadge what those are, and she said none of the ingredients are anything scary or out of the ordinary. They're safe to eat, and most are for flavor balancing or maintaining texture. 

If you're wondering about that UK horsemeat rumor, that dates back to 2013. The Guardian reported Taco Bell was simply caught up in the same scandal as other companies — like Birds Eye — and it was a supplier issue.

KFC is up to genetic funny business with their chickens

KFC has been the subject of so many myths about how and where they source their chickens, it's hard to keep track of them all. They've actually devoted an entire section of their Chicken Chattin' website to debunking those rumors. There's the Great KFC Mutant Chicken Myth, that suggested KFC was breeding chickens with extra legs, and the KFC Spider Chicken Myth, which suggested customers were eating chickens with eight legs and six wings. There's even the one that claimed they changed their name to KFC because they couldn't legally call their product "chicken" after all the tinkering — but don't worry, none of it's true.

KFC has gone out of their way to reassure customers they only source healthy, perfectly normal, non-GMO-engineered chickens. US restaurants even boast they serve US-raised chickens, and Canadian KFCs source local Canadian chickens, too. They even say their chickens have to pass both USDA standards and their own, and less than 10 percent of chickens are good enough to make it onto a KFC tray. Now you know!

Starbucks is anti-military

There are a few different stories about just how anti-military Starbucks is that have made the rounds, and according to ThoughtCo., it all started with a viral message sent in 2004. The original message condemned Starbucks for refusing to donate coffee to US Marines, and went on to claim they had refused because they didn't support the war in Iraq or those fighting it. It was written by Marine Sgt. Howard C. Wright, and even though he later issued a retraction saying he had been misinformed, the myth grew legs and kept running.

Starbucks hasn't just refuted the story (saying, in part, that they restrict charitable giving to public charities, and the military doesn't qualify), but they've also gone above and beyond to spotlight their outreach programs to active military and veterans. According to a 2005 Starbucks Newsroom release, they have not only committed to hiring thousands of veterans and active duty spouses, but they've sent coffee and donations through the American Red Cross and The United Service Organizations. They even made commitments to expand into military communities and donate a share of those store profits to charities, and you can't fault that.

Someone served customers rat or other foreign object, deep-fried

This one is so common Snopes even has a name for it: Kentucky Fried Rat. They say the story dates back a surprisingly long time, to a tale first told in 1976. According to that story, a woman was eating KFC, discovered it was a fried rat, then promptly died of a heart attack. Another story showed up in 1977, only this time it was a hurried wife who tried to pass off KFC as homemade, only to find she'd served fried rat.

Other restaurants have been targets, too. McDonald's was accused of serving up a chicken head in 2000, it was a mouse at Popeye's in 2003, a rat at KFC in 2015 (again), and a rat at Popeye's in 2016 (again). Snopes says there's usually not a resolution to any of these cases, like the 2016 claim against Popeye's. The questionable item was never examined, and the location it came from got a clean bill of health from the health department. Other cases — like the 2015 KFC rat — were clearly just an inconveniently shaped piece of chicken, and none have been confirmed as real.

McDonald's "100 percent beef" allows for including things like eyeballs and lips

The myth says that while McDonald's labels their meat "100 percent beef," you may not be eating all the usual parts of  the cow. If they included things like cow eyeballs it would technically still be beef, after all, and ThoughtCo. took a crack at debunking this one.  

Since the urban legend that McDonald's is the world's largest purchaser of cow eyeballs goes hand-in-hand with this one, they looked at how economically advantageous it would be to replace meat with eyeballs. Since they found it would actually be more expensive to use eyeballs in particular (they're often sold to colleges and research facilities), there's no point! The USDA also specifies any "beef byproducts" need to be disclosed, and McDonald's wouldn't be able to label their eyeball-filled meat as "100 percent beef" anyway.

While we're on the topic of McDonald's beef, we'll also add they've debunked the whole myth about the pink slime, too. According to CNBC, they did actually use "pink slime" at one time — and so did many restaurants. The appetizingly named concoction (ammonia-treated lean beef trimmings) was phased out across the board years ago.

The meat in Wendy's chili isn't beef at all

Wendy's chili has been the subject of almost as many rumors and legends as KFC's chickens, and it's no wonder. There's a lot you can hide in chili, but if this is one of your go-to things to order, Snopes says you don't need to be suspicious.

We'll start with the claim the chili is made with questionable meat, often said to be rat or horse. Snopes traced the myth — complete with supposed testimony from Wendy's "Chief Executive Director Boris Washington," to satirical news site NewsBuzzDaily.com. That's the first strike, and it's all you really need. There's also a story that started making the rounds on social media in 2016, saying a Wendy's employee had admitted to "pooping in several hundred batches of chili since 2013." Snopes says this one came from another site masquerading as news but publishing only tall tales.

The story about finding a finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili was true, but considering the person who made the find later admitted to putting it there, Snopes says you don't have to worry about that one, either.

Arby's serves liquid meat

No matter how much you love Arby's, you have to admit their roast beef has an odd texture. That's given rise to the myth they use liquified meat, and in 2015 UK Business Insider went behind-the-scenes at Arby's to get the truth.

There's no liquid meat. Their brisket arrives pre-smoked and ready to slice in- store, while other meats — including the roast beef — are slow-roasted on location every day. Sure, the plastic bag it's marinated and roasted in doesn't look that appetizing, but when it comes out and goes on the slicer it's definitely real meat. They say the roast beef is even sliced to order.

McDonald's uses weird fake eggs

When you make eggs at home, they're far from perfectly round. When McDonald's serves you up one of those round eggs, something's not right... right?

According to UK Business Insider, McDonald's pulled back the curtain on just how they prep their eggs for various products. They're sent to a factory within a day of being laid by very real chickens, then they're cleaned and weighed. Smaller eggs are cracked and tuned into liquid eggs, which are used to make scrambled eggs and breakfast burrito filling. All menu items that use eggs use these pre-cracked eggs, with the exception of the Egg McMuffins. They're real eggs cracked right on location into egg rings that give them their perfect shape, so there's no need to worry, no matter what you order.

Chinese takeouts have been caught serving cat/rat/dog

This one has been around for so long it's gone from urban legend to an uncomfortable, unfunny, and (says The Guardian) rather racist joke. They also suggest it's the Western world's fascination with China's strange foods that gave rise to this one, and Snopes confirms the stories of cats, dogs, and even rats being served up in Chinese restaurants isn't just false, it does have racist roots.

They found the myth circulating as far back as the 1850s, when Chinese immigrants were starting to settle in Britain and America. The story was a xenophobic, knee-jerk reaction to the clashing of two very different cultures, and they say this rumor hasn't just sprung up around numerous Chinese takeouts, but the baseless accusations have closed restaurant doors and put people out of work. So please, don't believe this one, either.

"Papa" John Schnatter's horrible quote about not sharing his wealth

We've talked about some of the shady things going on behind the closed doors of Papa John's, so we can see why you might believe he actually said the quote that went viral in 2016. According to social media, "Papa" John Schnatter was quoted as saying, "If our business is successful, and achieves excessive profits, we're under no obligation to share that with our workers."

Ouch. The quote was repeated over and over, seeming to be just one more bit of proof that the rich and elite couldn't care less about their workers. Snopes says he never said it, though, and it likely came from an attempt at paraphrasing what he actually said about not supporting Obamacare in 2012. Just after that statement was released, he issued a piece in the Huffington Post saying he'd been taken out of context, so this is another quote that just never got said.

Your favorite restaurant has a secret menu

So, what's your idea of a secret menu? It's one the employees all know about but the general public doesn't, right? To be a secret menu, there would have to be dishes that all employees know how to make, items that have names and a set list of ingredients, and — here's the key — that are known by thousands of employees, current and former.

When you put it like that, it seems doubtful any place has a true "Secret Menu", and that's what Thrillist says, too. Food writer Lee Breslouer even researched items supposedly on secret menus, then headed out to see if he could order them. He came away from the experiment with the conclusion that secret menus just don't exist. He also debunked the idea of a secret menu at Starbucks, getting some inside information on what employees really think of the idea. (Spoiler alert: They hate it.)

Breslouer says the idea of a secret menu started with In-and-Out Burger, and we know what you're thinking. But given their "secret" menu has an entire section on their website, it's not so secret after all, is it?

McDonald's pig fat shakes

Whether you prefer chocolate, vanilla, or only grab a shake from McDonald's during that brilliant time of year that is Shamrock Shake season, you're probably familiar with the unusual texture. It's different than other fast food shakes, and that's led to a whole series of rumors from stories about how they're actually dairy-free, along with one particularly nasty one about how they use pig fat.

It's just not true, and McDonald's UK says not only is there no pig fat in any shake, but there's no meat products at all. You're welcome, vegetarians.

In 2013, McDonald's Australia took on the pig fat question, too (via News.com.au). They say that thick, distinctive texture comes courtesy of the blending and cooling process the shake goes though, and if you're still suspicious, Business Insider says they're not called "milkshakes" just because regulations about what can be called a milkshake varies so much between states they just decided to make things simple.

Wendy's is fighting wage increases by using robots

This one was reported by a whole series of reputable news outlets, including papers like The Independent. According to the claims, Wendy's (and, to a lesser degree, McDonald's) was rolling out self-service kiosks where customers could place their orders and pay without dealing with human employees. It was supposed to replace employees in the face of rising minimum wage requirements, and that's a pretty dire look into our future.

Snopes did some digging, and don't worry — you don't have to worry about the rise of the machines just yet. In 2016, they did add self-service kiosks to about 30 restaurants, but considering there are more than 6,500 locations in the US alone, that's a tiny percentage. Their official statement was that they weren't replacing workers at all, they were shifting the balance of their duties elsewhere. McDonald's had a similar response, saying they were adding some kiosks to give customers a choice on how they'd like to order — but living, breathing employees would still be on hand to run other registers and take orders, in case you don't trust SkyNet with your lunch order.

Dairy Queen is dairy-free

You go to Dairy Queen for ice cream, right? Not exactly, and the fact they technically call it "soft serve" has led to the rumors their products are dairy-free. Not only is that not true, but it's potentially a horrible thing for someone to repeat to a friend who's lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy.

Snopes says you definitely shouldn't repeat this one, because it's not in the least bit true. In the same way McDonald's calls their products "shakes", DQ calls their delicious frozen treats "soft serve" because their recipes don't meet the FDA guidelines for what can be called "ice cream." It's a bit ironic, too — no one's ever going to call anything at DQ healthy, but their soft serve falls short of earning the title of "ice cream" because it doesn't have enough butterfat. Ice cream has to be 10 percent butterfat, and theirs is only 5 percent. The first ingredient in the soft serve is still milkfat and nonfat milk, though, so while DQ might technically be low-fat, they're definitely not dairy-free.

Tim Hortons is branching out into pot

There's something undeniably addicting about Tim Hortons, and fans aren't just fans — they're devoted, die-hard fans who aren't having any of this Starbucks nonsense. We talked about how they were forced to come out with an official statement that no, they weren't actually adding anything to their coffee to keep people coming back, but there's an even weirder story that's given a little extra bit of credibility by that rumor.

The story is that Tim Hortons is breaking into the marijuana market with the spreading legalization of the drug. It may seem like a far cry from coffee and donuts, but many customers were excited about the one-stop-shop morning possibilities. But Snopes traced the tale back to the source, a site called The Global Sun. Like the Onion, it's just a spoof news site that people tend to take way, way too seriously. While the story came at the same time as news that Canada was looking into the widespread legalization of pot, Tim Hortons hasn't made any official statements about becoming a coffee-and-donuts-and-marijuana shop... even though it would probably give their donut sales a huge boost.

McDonald's forbids the buying of meals for the homeless

The world would be a much better place if people would just take the time to reach out and give a helping hand to those in need, and that's what makes this widely-believed myth so tragic. McDonald's was painted as the bad guy when a rumor started circulating that they banned customers and employees alike from buying meals for local homeless, and no, it's not true.

Snopes says the rumor started on a site called True Activist, and there were a few incidents that helped fuel the rumor mill. Two happened in England: one involved a man reportedly being denied service because employees thought he was homeless, and another was an incident where a local teen claimed she hadn't been allowed to buy a meal for an elderly, homeless man. In both cases, McDonald's not only apologized but stressed they had no policy in place. The same sentiment was echoed in 2015, when The Guardian reported a French location put up a sign that warned employees they could be fired for giving away their meals. Finally, it's also worth noting that Snopes gives a special shout-out to McDonald's in East Asia, as many of their 24-hour locations open their doors to those in need of a dry, warm place to sleep.

Chick-fil-A's Mother's Day lunch

Chick-fil-A is known for being on the more socially responsible end of the fast food chain spectrum, so it's not entirely unthinkable that they would offer Moms a free Mother's Day lunch. It sounds like something they would do, right? When images and advertising appeared on social media in 2017, people believed it — but it wasn't true.

According to Snopes, the images and advertisements were nothing more than some old-fashioned social media trolling, done just to cause some uncomfortable moments for families and Chick-fil-A employees alike. After all, who's going to get the blame when a family shows up for Mom's free meal and the doors are closed? Consider this: Mother's Day is on the second Sunday in May in the US, and Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. In more recent years, the reason given has changed from having religious roots to helping employees maintain a healthy work-life balance, but whatever reason, they're still closed and Moms are out of luck.

You can win free food for life

You've probably seen stranger things than an offer of free food for life popping up on social media, right? It's usually easy enough to enter: send in your email, share a post, and you're entered to win a few free-food passes being given away to celebrate an anniversary. Sounds like something they'd do, right? It's been linked to McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, Wendy's, and KFC, and no, it's not real.

According to Snopes, clicking on any links takes you to a Facebook clone site, then asks you for information many people might not think twice about entering — especially when there's free food involved. But they're all scams, so don't be fooled again.

Snopes also says there's one of these that was at least a little bit true... sort of. Sonic's red tray key chain — a $2 purchase that would entitle bearers to $.99 Route 44 beverages — was available, but only at a few locations. Bummer.