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Taco Bell Menu Adds a New Meat (and It's Actually Meat)

By Daniel Kline

The McRib, McDonald's'  (MCD Get McDonald's Corporation Report odd bone-free rib sandwich, has popped up on menus since 1981. 

Since then it has been offered at what seem random times and random U.S. locations. It's not always available; the chain offers it when the pricing is right for the meat used to make the sandwich. And its scarcity has created a devoted fanbase.

There's a website, McRib Locator, which helps people track down the sandwich all over the world. It's an odd, but not unique, fast-food phenomenon. In recent years, a variety of chains have used limited availability and unpredictable timetables to get customers excited about various special menu items.

Some of those offers -- like the Starbucks  (SBUX Get Starbucks Corporation Report Pumpkin Spice Latte -- happen somewhat predictably with variation, while others pop up randomly. For fast-food fans it's a fun game that generates huge interest. And whenever a chain brings back an old favorite or tries out a new one, the media cover it.

It's a game Yum Brands'  (YUM Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report Taco Bell has played very well, and it's back at it again.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell Has Mastered Menu Intrigue   

Taco Bell changes its menu and brings back limited-time offers as much as any chain, maybe more often. The fast-food giant has used its Nacho Fries as sort of a national version of the McRib. It takes them on and off the menu seemingly randomly while also occasionally offering special versions.

In addition, Taco Bell has tried things like bringing chicken wings to its menu for only a week. That offering created McRib-level excitement because it felt like a limited opportunity to try something unique.

The Mexican chain has also gotten a lot of attention for taking Mexican Pizza off its menu during the pandemic, then triumphantly bringing it back

Taco Bell, however, has another limited-time, limited-availability menu item that you may not know about. And reports suggest it has just brought it back.

Taco Bell Welcomes Back Kalua Pork

While pork has been a staple on Chipotle's (CMG Get Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Report menu, it's not a regular for Taco Bell. The fast-food chain has ground beef, chicken, and steak on its menu, but it does not offer pork except in Hawaii and only at limited times.

Kalua Pork has been offered occasionally at the chain's Hawaii locations since 2008, When it appears on the menu it's generally available as a protein across the entire menu. It recently was added back to the menu in Hawaii, according to multiple menu images posted on Reddit

"Kalua pork is a smoked shredded meat. It is the main dish and most common food served at traditional Hawaiian luaus and feasts," according to Cooking Classy

"It is a centuries-old tradition that uses a rather laborsome process of cooking a whole pig underground (this recipe uses just a cut of pork and a simplified cooking method to make it more realistically doable for everyone)." 

Taco Bell sources the meat from a local provider in Hawaii, which may explain why it has never offered the dish nationally. 

The chain has offered carnitas -- another variation of shredded pork -- at its Taco Bell Cantina locations. Those are higher-end eateries that also sell alcohol. The chain has been experimenting with the Cantina brand since 2015 and menus vary based on location.

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