No, it’s not liquid meat
Snopes says one of the most disgusting fast food urban legends about Arbys dates back to at least 1997, and its the story that their roast beef isnt beef at all. The claim basically says their roast beef is actually imitation meat, made from gels, liquids, or pastes, formed into a vaguely meat-shaped lump then roasted, cooled, and turned into sandwich filler. Nothing about it sounds good, and its a weirdly enduring story.
They conducted research and contacted Arbys Quality Assurance directly. They affirmed that the story is completely untrue and that their roast beef is, in fact, made entirely of beef. They are aware of the rumors, and Jim Lowder from Arby’s wrote to Snopes, saying “Thank you for helping to dispel the urban legend about Arby’s Roast Beef.” I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels frustrated by this kind of story. The answer to your question is no. We don’t ship our product in the form of a paste, gel, or liquid. “.
Of course theyll say that, the cynics think. But it was repeatedly corroborated independently by Arby’s staff members who worked in the kitchen and behind the counter.
Yes, it does come pre-packaged in a weird solution
Urban legends have to come from somewhere, right? Snopes says the origin of the tall tale might be related to the admittedly weird way the meat is shipped to the store. Each Arbys location receives their roast beef in airtight bags, and when they get it, it does look a little suspect. Snopes describes it as “kind of grayish and rather soft and squishy”… and that doesnt sound like most traditional types of meat, does it?
They add that the chunk of meat is likely not what you are seeing in the bag because it is also soaking in a “gelatinous broth.” It’s simple to see how someone who has never opened the bag might assume that the contents are less-than-solid given the jelly-like broth, the odd color, and the squishiness of the contents. However, Arby’s — and their staff — assure clients that this is simply untrue.
It’s cooked in the bag and sliced to order
In 2015, Arbys invested in redesigning their restaurants and their kitchens. Business Insider took the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes in one of the new locations before it opened, and got a peek at the processes that goes into serving up Americas favorite fast food roast beef. They found that while some of their meats — like the brisket — get to the store ready to slice and serve, the roast beef is slow-roasted in its strange bag for around four hours. Its only after that its put on the slicer and — surprisingly — is sliced to order only as customers are standing at the counter or sitting in the drive-thru.
Sounds unlikely, right? But its confirmed by numerous employees and former employees on Reddit, like this cook and cashier who replied to an IAmA thread by saying, “All of the roast beef is cooked daily and sliced to order just moments before it gets on the sandwich and into your hands. I know this sounds like Arbys propaganda, but its the absolute truth and one of the reasons why I was proud to work there compared to other fast-food.”
Those sandwiches can be very good or very bad
With more and more people paying closer attention to the nutritional content of the foods theyre eating, fast food chains have been under an increasing amount of scrutiny. Take a peek at Arbys nutritional information, and youll find theres a way to eat pretty well — and there are plenty of ways to eat very, very badly.
You’ll discover that the traditional roast beef isn’t that bad for you. For a fast food sandwich, its 360 calories and 14 grams of fat are actually quite low. Additionally, there are 970 mg of sodium, which isn’t great but isn’t the worst you can do for a quick lunch.
But dont be fooled into thinking all their roast beef options are healthy. Opt for something a little meatier like the Half Pound Beef n Cheddar, and youre looking at 740 calories, 39 grams of fat, and a whopping 2530 mg of sodium. For some perspective, the American Heart Association strongly cautions that a daily sodium intake should be — at worst — no more than 2300 mg, and ideally shouldnt be more than 1500 mg. Just that one sandwich can take you over the limit.
Arby’s is trying to shed their roast beef-only image
Despite having built their company on roast beef, Arby’s has recently been attempting to emphasize to both current and potential customers that this is not all they are about.
In 2018, they launched a new ad campaign with the slogan, “Arbys. We have the meats… for sandwiches”. According to The Wall Street Journal, the entire campaign was designed to let people know that theres much more to Arbys than just roast beef, and theyre not shy about saying that. The campaigns “head of sandwiches” character moans about people who “still think Arbys is just roast beef,” and that “The last time you went to Arbys you were with your grandparents who ate exclusively roast beef, every meal, somehow.”
That is some serious criticism of a pillar product line, but marketing chief Jim Taylor claims they aren’t completely abandoning their roast beef. Instead of just catering to their grandparents’ roast beef cravings, they’re also trying to appeal to a younger crowd that favors sandwiches of all kinds.
It didn’t inspire the name of the chain
Another tale that most people have heard is that Arby’s obtained its name from the initials of its signature roast beef. Say roast beef, R and B, quickly, and you’ll arrive at Arby’s. It’s a great story, but it’s untrue, get it?
Arbys has tweeted more than once about the source of their name, stressing that while Arbys does actually come from the initials “R” and “B,” its not a reference to roast beef. Its actually referring to the chains founders, Leroy and Forrest Raffel: the Raffel Brothers.
Strangely, even though Arbys is trying to clear up the misconception today, Today notes that during the 1980s, Arbys actually included the source of their name in an advertising campaign. They said then that it was an acronym for “Americas Roast Beef — Yes Sir!”, which gave some serious creedence to the idea they named themselves after their flagship product. The 80s were a different time… and apparently were full of lies.
Roast beef was chosen to attract a higher-end clientele
Leroy and Forrest Raffel opened Arbys on July 23, 1964, says Business Wire. They did it at a time when everyone else was doing burgers, and their original menu of fresh-sliced roast beef was considered something completely out of the box. (Fun fact: those curly fries werent added until the 1980s.)
Burger giants McDonalds and Burger King were still fairly new when the Raffel brothers decided to get into the fast food game. They had seen just how popular the fast food burger joint was, so why deviate? They wanted to offer something that would set them apart from the competition, but they also wanted to be the high-class fast food place.
“On the day we opened, the McDonalds hamburger was 15 cents and our sandwich was 69 cents,” Leroy Raffel told NBC. “So, you had to be a little more affluent to buy our sandwich.”
Decades later, their more expensive menu was cited as one of the major factors in their flailing business. In 2011, the joint corporation of Wendys and Arbys was looking at pretty miserable sales, which industry analyst chalked up to a combination of a menu thats more expensive than other chains and inconsistent performance (via QSR).
They’re dragging their feet on going antibiotic-free
There are many things to worry about in the world today, and one of the biggest ones is the use of antibiotics in the production of meat. The basic theory is that when antibiotics are given to animals to promote growth rather than just treat illness, humans eat the meat and build up a tolerance to them, making antibiotics less effective when they are actually needed.
In 2017, a group of public interest organizations (including the Center for Food Safety and the Consumers Union) created a report card grading restaurants on their commitment to only sourcing meat not produced with the help of antibiotics. Restaurants have come under particular scrutiny in recent years. Of the 25 chains surveyed, 14 got a passing grade. Arbys, on the other hand, got a dismal F.
According to MarketWatch, Arbys said that was largely because they refused to participate in the survey. But Consumer Reports says the F — which was also given to Buffalo Wild Wings, Cracker Barrel, Dairy Queen, Applebees, Chilis, Dominos, IHOP, LIttle Caesars, Sonic, and Olive Garden — was awarded to chains that had no antibiotics policies in place. Food for thought.
They’re working on creating sustainable sources
While Arbys might be iffy about the antibiotics in their roast beef, they are actively participating in efforts to increase the sustainability of beef production in the US. Their Corporate Social Responsibility program is called PurposeFULL, and part of that program is their focus on the food industry, FlavorFULL. In addition to sourcing cage-free eggs, theyre also a founding member of the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef. The USRSB is a coalition of everyone from start to finish in the beef industry, including producers, processors, beef farm suppliers, academia, and retailers (like Arbys). The goal? Keeping your sandwiches full of roast beef while not negatively impacting the planet and the environment.
Talking about sustainability is great, but its one of those buzzwords thats tough for many people to actually define. When it comes to what Arbys is trying to do, its impact everything from managing the carbon emissions and footprint of beef farms to improving the genetics of the herds, herd health, and nutrition (via BEEF).
It was blamed for a massive salmonella outbreak
In 2006, the South Georgia Medical Center reported an unnaturally high number of salmonella cases: eight separate cases between August 28 and September 5 alone. Eight doesnt sound like much, but The Legal Examiner says it was enough to spark an investigation that ultimately uncovered a total of 72 cases of illness. The source? Arbys, their roast beef sandwiches, and a new meat slicer.
The investigation (via WALB News 10) found that the problem wasnt bad roast beef, but a defect in the meat slicer. Bacteria was discovered under a portion of the blades cover, a section of the machine that was supposed to be sealed with silicone. It wasnt, and in spite of the fact that the machine had been completely broken down, cleaned, and thoroughly sanitized, the bacteria remained and continued to be spread.
According to The Law Offices of Eric H. Weinberg, cases only stopped being reported on November 16. One death may have been related to the outbreak, and more than a quarter of those who became ill required hospitalization.
The Truth About Arby’s Roast Beef
What type of roast beef does Arby’s use?
Nothing about it sounds good, and the story has an oddly enduring quality. No, it’s not liquid meat. They investigated and contacted Arby’s Quality Assurance directly. They affirmed that the story is completely untrue and insisted that their roast beef is entirely made of beef.
Is Arby’s roast beef processed meat?
What are the ingredients in Arby’s roast beef?
Arby’s uses USDA Choice Angus beef for its sandwiches, which is slow-roasted every day in-store.