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Why Taco Bell is rebranding some meat as 'protein'

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Taco Bell to test 'Power Protein' menu

Taco Bell to test 'Power Protein' menu

Taco Bell to test 'Power Protein' menu

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Taco Bell to test 'Power Protein' menu

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How much sense do healthy menus make to fast food chains?

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How much sense do healthy menus make to fast food chains?

Taco Bell will soon start marketing some of its "taco meat fillings" under an even more ambiguous name: protein.

That's the plan for a handful of restaurants in Dayton, Ohio, where the chain will test out a new "Power Protein" menu featuring four new chicken and steak entrees starting July 25. The rebranding is not about moving away from the word "meat" itself so much as it is about offering healthier menu options, according to the company.

All the new offerings will have at least 20 grams of protein and fewer than 420 calories, making them the first items "created with our new nutritional guardrails in mind," according to a Taco Bell press release. Among items on the existing menu, a Cantina Burrito with steak packs 780 calories; the vegetarian option isn't much better at 740. The Volcano Nachos, meanwhile, contain 970 calories and 1,670 milligrams of sodium, more than half the FDA's total daily recommended intake.

In April, Taco Bell announced that it wanted to start offering more balanced, healthy fare. The company said it hoped to have 20 percent of its menu contain one-third or less of the FDA's daily recommended guidelines for fat, sodium, and calories (based on the assumption that most people eat three meals per day) by the year 2020.

The rollout of a protein-branded menu comes months after tests found Taco Bell beef in Britain contained traces of horse meat. The company said its own testing confirmed that finding, but added that no U.S. beef was affected.

Back in 2011, Taco Bell endured another public spectacle over the quality of its meat after a class-action suit alleged the company's beef was really made of just 35 percent beef and a whole bunch of question marks. Taco Bell responded with an ad campaign to "set the record straight" that its meat was actually made with 88 percent beef, with the other 12 percent made with a "secret recipe."

After the lawyers who brought that lawsuit dropped their case, Taco Bell gloated over the victory, asking in another press release, "Would it kill you to say you're sorry?"

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