What goes into ground beef? - Food Dialogues

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What goes into ground beef?

As a rancher, mom and main chef in my household, we have two whole shelves in our freezer dedicated to ground beef. It is such a versatile, easy protein to add to any meal – and healthy! We get a 90/10 blend (90% lean beef/10% fat) from our local butcher, and I hardly ever have to drain off any fat after browning.

It’s even more fascinating to think about how the meat industry has evolved and become more efficient as a vital piece of the entire beef complex. Besides just processing the animal for roasts and steaks, there are a lot of cuts and leftover pieces of perfectly good meat. This is what goes into ground beef.

The grinding process blends lean muscle from cows, steers and bulls with fat trimmed from finished carcasses, and as a result raises the value of both. That helps me as a beef producer all the way up the value chain to the buyer. Everyone knows that the Native Americans used all parts of the buffalo when they were hunted. Like bladder for a water jug even – still trying to wrap my head around that! But it’s the same with how efficiently beef cattle are processed in our modern world today.

The composition of what goes into the grinder to make ground beef is a function of what meat cuts are available as well as how much product is needed at any point in time. Some food-eaters may be concerned that their ground beef comes from more than one animal. The fact is, all ground beef trim must meet stringent food safety guidelines set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), therefore the number of cows whose lean trim is used doesn’t represent the safety of your food.

In order to get the right mix of lean-to-fat in our ground beef, processors combine trim from a number of different animals. For example, a majority of the trim from grain-finished beef cattle in the U.S. has higher fat content than trim from dairy cows or cattle from countries with grass-finished production systems, such as Australia and New Zealand. Trim from these animals is combined to create ground beef in a variety of lean-to-fat ratios, such as 80/20 or 90/10 (like what I prefer), to meet consumer demand.

This process is no different than using several oranges to make orange juice or a truck load of white corn kernels to make corn chips. I’m grateful knowing that the U.S. has the safest food supply in the world! This includes our beef, so you can be confident knowing it is safe and healthy.

One of my favorite uses of ground beef is for hamburgers – an American original. So for this National Hamburger Day (May 28th), I’ll be celebrating with my home-raised beef burgers. But you want to know a secret, ranchers buy meat from the store, too. We don’t always have a freezer full of beef! So buying beef from the grocery store is a great option – it’s the same beef, after all. And I know it’s safe because I’m raising it – and USDA has a number of safeguards in place with strict oversight to be sure ALL meat is safe.

Here is my favorite burger – Colorado ranch-girl goes Hawaiian. Happy National Burger Day!

Kelsey Pope is part of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council. All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs