Viral TikTok Allegedly 'Exposes' How Wendy's Chili Meat Is Made

There was a time when the biggest question associated with Wendy's was "where's the beef?" In those halcyon days of 1984, Wendy's did the asking (via Wide Open Eats). That question became a rhetorical smackdown that casts doubt on how well-grounded an idea is. But in more recent years, people have had a beef with Wendy's ground meat. There's no need to ask where it is because it's in the chain's chili. Instead, people find the meat itself questionable.

Back in 2015, people asked if Wendy's even used beef in its chili. As Snopes explained, a satirical piece by News Buzz Daily gave people the false impression the meat wasn't wholly cow but what sounds like an unholy trinity of horse, rat, and beef. Nowadays, chili detractors who accept that the meat comes entirely from animals that moo may still claim that Wendy's milks its cow meat for too long, using beef patties that are well past their prime.

TikToker @mr.mawby described them as "old dry patties." In a TikTok video that amassed more than 7 million views and 19,000 comments before it was removed from the site, the TikToker claims to be "exposing Wendy's." Set in a kitchen, it shows beef patties being rinsed, microwaved, chopped into chunks, and placed in a bag for safekeeping until they can fill chili cups. According to the TikToker, "it goes in the fridge for a few days after this."

Where's the problem?

Despite featuring the text, "How Wendys Prepares Chili," the since-deleted TikTok video doesn't actually show the chili being prepared in its entirety and stops after the ground beef is stored. However, some viewers had seen enough after 38 gruelingly unappetizing seconds of footage. Probably wanting to unsee it, one person wrote, "I just had some yesterday ... I feel sick bruh." A second, possibly-distraught commenter declared they were "gonna cry." And user Chipmunk, who presumably stuffed their cheeks with this chili, simply posted, "Foul."

But maybe @mr.mawby got it wrong. User Kendyll seemed to think the claims were more bull than beef: "I used to work at Wendy's.. the only correct part of this was the chopping with a spatula." Another self-described Wendy's employee claimed that their location used "fresh" patties to prepare chili. A 2021 Reddit thread also addressed the question of whether "Wendy's chili is made from their old meat," and self-identified employees answered that broken patty pieces or patties that may have been cooked too long to be sandwich material got turned into the chili. Moreover, some insisted the meat was just "as fresh" as the beef used in sandwiches.

Additionally, folks on TikTok and Reddit highlighted the food waste implications of chucking all that beef instead of chili-fying it. Some TikTok commenters mocked @mr.mawby's post. An unimpressed Lee wrote, "okay? was i supposed to expect you grew it on a chili tree??" In other words, where's the beef?

And who cares?

Regardless of how Wendy's chili is prepared, it's still an incredibly popular menu item. And for some fans, the way it's made simply isn't a problem. According to the Daily Dot, a former employee who worked at Wendy's in 1998 claimed nothing had changed about the process. And one commenter on another TikTok video posted by user @wendys.expose (which has since been taken down) showing how the chili is made wrote, "Okay? Like I care." 

In a 2020 YouTube video, Mashed asked viewers what they think about Wendy's chili, and the comments were mostly in favor of the meaty dish. "I like the chili and never regretted a single serving I've had," wrote one YouTuber, while another said, "1 bowl of their chili makes 1 killer meal!" In fact, Wendy's chili has so many fans, diners are looking to replicate the dish at home. A simple Google search will yield dozens of recipes.

The debate spreads to other fast-food restaurants

Wendy's isn't the only establishment that's come under fire for its recipes, preparation techniques, and ingredients. And the response is often as divided as the Wendy's chili discussion. TikToker Isaiah Gilley, presumably a McDonald's employee, regularly posts videos showing the preparation of popular menu items, including a viral video depicting the construction of the ever-popular McRib. Gilley's videos often receive mixed responses in the comments, with some users claiming they're grossed out by the processes and others stating they'll continue to eat at McDonald's. 

And it's not just customers who are split when it comes to whether or not fast-food procedures are indeed gross — it's also employees. A Reddit thread titled "Chain restaurant employees, what should customers not order from your menu?" explores items customers may want to avoid at popular restaurants. One user claiming to be a Dunkin' employee told customers to avoid the eggs, stating they'd witnessed eggs left out for more than three hours, "turn[ing them] into hard, rubbery pucks." However, this didn't deter another user, who commented, "Trying one in the morning."

No matter how you fry it, fast food and its controversial menu items, like the Wendy's chili, are here to stay.