Does Panda Express use real beef Can You Really Call It Beef
Panda Express has long been known as one of the go-to Chinese food places in America, with hundreds of locations and even more fans who love their takeout meals or dine-in options like Orange Chicken and Honey Walnut Shrimp. Many of these fans will tell you that Panda Express’ claim to fame isn’t their fresh ingredients, but rather how they maintain such affordable prices despite operating so many restaurants.
But what if Panda Express didn’t use real beef? What if all those delicious orange chicken, sesame beef, and pepper steak dishes were made with beef substitutes?
What are the ingredients in beef?
To make it simple, beef is made up of water (60 percent), protein (15 percent), and fat (25 percent). Other less-than-appetizing components include phosphorous, cholesterol, and chewy connective tissue. According to a 2012 study in The Lancet, China’s favorite fast-food chain is one of many restaurants that likes to cut corners by substituting other ingredients for real beef.
Panda Express uses gelatinous textured soy protein concentrate along with hydrolyzed wheat gluten and starch—ingredients that may sound more familiar as white slime or plastic resin. One expert described soy protein concentrate as the grossest form of ingredient that anyone can use in their food. Ouch! Who knew eating out could be so tricky?
Luckily for consumers everywhere, there are ways to avoid this common restaurant bait-and-switch. Many restaurants advertise their menu items as beef the menu even if they’re not using any beef at all.
Where does fake beef come from?
Skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, and cardiac muscles comprise beef. But in fake beef, only two components are used: soy protein isolate and wheat gluten. Soy protein isolate contains more than 80 percent protein by weight and has a high percentage of fat-free solids that work as a binder to hold together ground meat products.
Wheat gluten is a vital ingredient for producing consistent patties with a chewy texture that holds up to grilling or frying. The downside to using wheat gluten is that it comes from wheat — an allergen for some people with celiac disease. Additionally, there’s the issue of artificial ingredients being used in Panda Express dishes.
Orange chicken sauce, for example, contains hydrolyzed soy protein and modified corn starch. And MSG can be found in many other dishes such as the Kung Pao Shrimp. Overall, it might be best to go with something else on the menu if you’re trying to eat healthier foods or avoid certain allergens or food additives.
Why do restaurants call it something else?
Meat suppliers provide meat for all kinds of restaurants, including those that serve vegetarian dishes. Sometimes these names are based on what different cultures have historically called beef, but don’t be fooled—if it’s not beef from a cow, it doesn’t mean it isn’t beef at all. In fact, many restaurants feature real beef in their dishes that is disguised with other names to appeal to customers or avoid legal issues.
But there are clear differences between terms like beef and meat, and as long as ingredients are clearly stated on menus, then there is no reason you can’t enjoy dishes with any kind of protein source you want. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken, fish or tofu- just make sure to ask your server before ordering!
So if you love Panda Express, Chinese food, Indian food or even tacos (and who doesn’t love tacos?), there is no need to feel guilty about enjoying these foods.
Even if it might taste slightly different than what you would cook at home, remember that eating out should be fun and tasty – not something that makes you feel guilty afterwards. No matter how healthy your diet choices are otherwise, once in a while it’s perfectly fine to treat yourself by eating something decadent.
How can you verify what they are serving you?
Next time you’re at Panda Express, order a beef dish like their beef and broccoli. Don’t worry about whether or not it’s real beef—in fact, we recommend eating half of it right there in front of them so they’ll see that you are a serious customer and can’t be fooled by something as silly as a fake steak.
With your remaining half of beef, take it home with you. Once you’ve gotten home, take pictures of everything (from every angle) so you have proof that it’s not just orange chicken from under another name. Next, run to your local butcher (you know who he is if you live in Chinatown), and get some real steak from him for comparison purposes.
In the kitchen, set up two pans side-by-side on the stove: one pan with the beef from Panda Express and one pan with the beef from your butcher. Put both pans on medium heat and cook each until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooled, take a large bite of each one.
Is this an ethical practice or a scam by restaurants to take advantage of their customers?
There is a strong debate over whether or not it is ethical for restaurants to mislead their customers about food ingredients. On one hand, some people argue that restaurants are in business to turn a profit, and consumers should expect for there to be a certain amount of deception involved when they go out to eat.
Consumers may think they’re ordering chicken noodle soup, but what they actually receive could contain any number of processed meats. On the other hand, many argue that it is inherently deceptive for restaurants to make false claims about their products and services.
If we know that a product contains high amounts of preservatives and is preserved with chemicals, isn’t it more than reasonable to assume that it does not come from an animal at all? If you’re concerned about how your food was sourced and if you’re going to get something different than advertised on the menu, you can always ask questions before committing to your order.
If so, should we be upset at them or ourselves for eating it when we have no clue it’s not actually real meat until we read about it online or someone tells us about it?
This is an interesting question. The topic of food labeling has been in and out of news over recent years, with many companies going back to re-label their products. So, I asked my friend (and fellow blogger) Jessica about it who responded with a great post about food labeling and what you can do about it if you’re concerned. But at the end of that post she brings up another topic: Food Waste.
She writes , What would happen if we stopped wasting so much food? For one thing, our carbon footprint would be significantly lessened. We’d have more land available for growing crops and raising livestock—crops which could be used to feed the ever-growing population on this planet. And there are other benefits as well! When people consume less meat, they produce less greenhouse gases like methane.