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8 Most Questionable Meats at Popular Fast-Food Chains, According to Insiders

Those who have seen behind the curtain warn against eating these items.

From gross taco toppings to foul odors so bad they cause employees to go on strike, fast-food atrocities are basically an Americana pastime—traumatizing to experience yet amusingly awful to hear about.

Considering American fast-food chains are occasionally lacking in quality, to put it gently, and have been known to cut corners with beef (while apparently being totally reckless with the calories), questionable dining experiences are an all-too-common occurrence.

Leave it to Reddit, then, to reveal the true depths of the depravity. Like campfire horror stories, but with disgusting fast-food meat products instead of ghosts, this recent Reddit thread details harrowing first-person accounts from former employees, which may have you second-guessing ever ordering a tuna sub, or a cup of chili, again.

And don't miss 8 Fast-Food Chains With Questionable Ingredient Quality.

Chili Meat at Wienerschnitzel

wienerschnitzel chili dog
Wienerschnitzel / Facebook

Speaking of chili, it seems to be a common menu item for disgusting mystery meats. Of course, not all chili is inherently weird or bad—in fact, when made properly and with quality ingredients, it can be downright amazing.

But when it's made improperly, i.e. with leftover hot dogs, it's less amazing. One Reddit user mentioned that his friend managed a Wienerschnitzel, where the chili "wasn't up to school standard," shall we say.

Since they had to add more meat to the chili in order to pass code, the commenter says they used old burgers, dogs (presumably hot dogs, and not, ya know…), and most appallingly, expired ground beef from the freezer.

"Bro bluntly told me, 'Never eat our chili.'"

Hamburger Meat for Chili at Wendy's

wendy's chili

If there's one fast-food chain known for its chili, it's Wendy's, so it's no surprise that Reddit has some stories to share. While there's no report of leftover hot dogs and expired ground beef, it's still not a good look, according to this Reddit user: "If I had to complain about Wendy's, it was the chili. All the meat contained in the chili is just hamburger meat that was too ambitiously thrown on the grill during busy hours that never ultimately got used for a hamburger. It gets cut up and thrown into the chili."

Another commenter echoes those unfortunate sentiments. Recalling when he worked at a Wendy's in high school, the commenter says whenever a burger is past its prime, it gets reserved for chili, thrown in a bucket next to the grill for later.

"At the end of each shift the person dumps all the old burgers into a larger bucket of old burgers which may or may not be covered," they say… and it gets worse. "Overnight they chill, the grease congeals and the meat turns pretty grey and weird. This meat may not be frozen, but it is still pretty hard to break up. So the person making chili dumps it in a big colander, runs hot water over it, and mashes it into tiny pieces again. Now the soggy, greyish, lukewarm day old burger meat is ready to be used in the chili."

Taco Meat at Dairy Queen

dairy queen tacos
Courtesy of Dairy Queen

Corn syrup-infused "ice cream" aside, there are plenty of non-dairy menu items to order—and worry about—at Dairy Queen. One Reddit user, whose first job was at a Dairy Queen, mentions trying to improve cleanliness and quality at the restaurant as kitchen manager but coming upon some struggles.

In addition to Blizzard ingredients lingering way too long in metal bins ("the stuff at the bottom was moldy," they note), they recount how tomatoes are prepared in excess in advance, refrigerated overnight until they're "glassy and falling apart." Oh, and the restaurant used old wilted lettuce.

Most disturbing of all, though, is their straightforward comment, "don't eat the taco meat," presented without any further detail.

Ham at Pizza Hut

pizza hut meat lover's pizza
Courtesy of Pizza Hut

One of the most nostalgic pizza chains in America, Pizza Hut has been on a bit of a roller coaster of late, teetering back and forth between struggles and success — and by "success," we mean they've managed to stop the mass closures.

But closures or not, certain questionable ingredients are putting customers and employees on a roller coaster of their own. According to a Reddit user, ham on pizza is a big no-no at the Hut.

"Worked at pizza hut done (sic) time ago and the ham would turn this disgusting gray color within a day or opening the package," they recall with chilling detail. "You just couldn't tell if it had been opened 24 his (sic) ago or 2 weeks ago. But, during cooking it returned to pink which always weirded me out."

Hot Dogs at Orange Julius

orange julius hot dog
Orange Julius (1700 Market Ln, Norfolk, NE) / Facebook

For many, Orange Julius is a specific type of Americana nostalgia distinctly tied to mall food courts of yesteryear. Considering that mall food courts are about as popular nowadays as video rental stores, it's no wonder that Orange Julius has all but disappeared from the fast-food landscape.

Perhaps if it served fresher food it might have had more staying power? For one Reddit user, whose first job was at an Orange Julius, leftover hot dogs are a form of PTSD.

"We would cook hot dogs on the rotating grill for all to see. At the end of the day if they weren't bought we were supposed to toss them. I mean they were almost burnt and wrinkly."

It only goes downhill from there, adding that one day the manager was there when they had three hot dogs left.

"He put them in the fridge and told me to use them the next day in a chili or cheese dog where the customer couldn't see the hotdog. To this day I still feel bad for the customer who received the chili dog the next morning."

Beef at Arby's

arbys roast beef
Courtesy of Arby's

America's roast beef chain is full of secrets. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), we have a former Arby's employee with a Reddit account to shed some light on said secrets. Turns out the chain's signature item, the roast beef sandwich, is not real roast beef.

"Instead, it's a compressed block of beef scraps. It comes in a bag filled with beef broth, and you just warm the entire thing in the oven for a few hours."

The user added that once the compressed beef block (mmm!) is heated, it's put on a slicer and left under a heat lamp for hours.

Tuna at Subway

Subway tuna sub
Courtesy of Subway

It was only a matter of time before Subway, a chain as widely known for its controversial secrets as its sandwiches, made an all-too-prominent appearance on this Reddit thread. And it starts and ends with tuna. Easily the most infamous sandwich order on the menu (the fact that Subway had to go to court over its tuna is not a great look), the tuna is constantly being called into question, and largely reviled as mystery meat.

And if that wasn't bad enough, one Reddit user pointed out the tuna's disturbing origin.

"I worked at a Subway in my senior year of high school. What disturbed me was how the tuna came packaged: in a big metallic bag (to keep it fresh, I guess.) Then when we had to take it out, it would make this squelching noise. And because I made so many subs, completely put me off from eating those sandwiches ever again."

They're not alone. Another Redditor has similar tuna trauma.

"I clearly recall the first time I made the tuna. Ours came in a giant can (maybe it doesn't anymore?) and watched in horror as my trainer then proceeded to dump an absurd amount of mayo (probably a 64 oz jug) into a giant vat and told me to mix."

Obscene mayo aside, that sounds innocuous enough… until it isn't.

"But not with a spoon. Oh no, we had to do it by hand (and this was before gloves became mandated, we had to wash hands constantly). The smell would linger for days no matter how much you tried washing your hands. I didn't mind tuna sandwiches before, but after this I pretty much stopped eating them. I was never so happy to quit a job."

This Burger at Friendly's

friendly's monster grilled cheese burger melt
Friendly's / Facebook

Sometimes, it isn't even a matter of lackluster meat quality, leftover hot dogs, or compressed beef blocks. Sometimes, it's just something as simple as heinous excess.

"I used to work at Friendly's," says one Redditor. "We had the grilled cheese-burger melt. It was a burger sandwiched between two small grilled cheese sandwiches. It was a day-and-a-half worth of calories. It was also bland af."

It's the stuff of dietician nightmares and the kind of thing you eat when you've hit rock bottom. Or as another commenter succinctly puts it: "I ate that when I didn't care about life." The chain may be plotting a comeback, but let's just hope they stop serving their customers heart-attack food.

Matt Kirouac
Matt Kirouac is a travel and food writer and culinary school graduate, with a passion for national parks, all things Disney, and road trip restaurants. Read more about Matt