The Biggest Myth About Arby's Roast Beef You Can Stop Believing

Fast food is called such due to the emphasis on quick preparation and service. While your order may be delivered in minutes, home cooks know that meat takes time to cook properly, bread can't bake that fast, and even cheese needs to melt. In order to process your order in the amount of time needed, fast food restaurants need to do a significant amount of prep work and pre-packaging before the final product reaches the consumer. This prep work can come in the form of food additives, strange packaging techniques, and cookie-cutter style production. This prep work can also lead to persistent rumors. 

One rumor that's plagued Arby's for years is that their meat isn't really, well, meat. Since at least 1997, there has been a persistent rumor that Arby's famous roast beef is actually a liquid, or a paste, like you might find in a science fiction movie (via Snopes).

Fortunately, we can confirm that this assumption is due to a preparation technique that, while visually unappealing, is not part of some future-world experiment.

A classic roast beef sandwich since 1971

Arby's roast beef sandwiches have been prepared and marinated the same way since 1971 (via Arby's). The beef is packaged, then roasted in the restaurant and sliced on-demand for each customer (via Business Insider). The misunderstanding occurs when the roasted beef is shipped to the store in packages that look anything but appetizing — basically, the meat arrives in a cold bag with liquid. 

According to Jim Lowder, who works with Arby's quality assurance, "Arby's Roast Beef consists entirely of Beef and a Self-Basting solution, which contains just enough water to keep the product juicy throughout our restaurants' 3-hour roasting process and during slicing." The bag, however, indeed looks gooey. For reference, think of what a good crockpot roast looks like after everything cools down. While the bag is blobby, gelatinous, and not the best color, it heats up during slow roasting to bring the finished product you expect. By prepackaging with the marinade, the company can ensure a consistent flavor through its many locations nationwide.

So while we all know fast food doesn't top the health charts, you can at least rest assured that Arby's food is actually food. Enjoy your roast beef sandwich.