Myth: It is always better to buy ground beef
that has been ground from whole muscle

Fact:

When cattle are processed into beef carcasses and later into the cuts that consumers enjoy, like sirloin steaks, filet mignon and ribeyes, small pieces are and we call these pieces beef trimmings. These pieces are often the smaller pieces of the larger cuts that cannot be sold on their own so they are ground up to be sold as ground beef.

There are several advantages when using trimmings to make ground beef including:

  1. Different cuts contain different amounts of lean and fat. By mixing together various pieces, processors are able to produce ground beef at lean/fat ratios that consumers demand such as 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat (80/20) or 90/10.

  2. Grinding together trimmings reduces the cost of ground beef. Whereas a whole muscle cut such as a rib-eye might run $8-$10 a pound, which many consumers would consider a high price to pay for a burger or taco meat, ground beef made with trimmings is significantly less expensive.

  3. Trimmings make up approximately 15-20 percent of the meat from an animal on average. Using trimmings is the responsible and sustainable thing to do to get the most out of each animal and also means fewer animals need to be slaughtered to keep up with demand for ground beef.

  4. While generating 51 percent less manure

  5. and 42 percent fewer carbon emissions

Ground beef provides an economical source of protein for consumers that can be used in several recipes based on lean content.

Dig deeper...

While some on-line sites and media personalities have popularized the idea that beef is somehow safer when ground in a retail store as opposed to in a plant from trimmings, these is no basis for this statement. In fact, when meat arrives in a retail store already packaged, it is subject to less handling.

Tenderized products are most commonly sold to foodservice providers, but they are also sold at supermarkets and other outlets.

According to USDA, “In a USDA-inspected plant, trimmed beef destined for grinding is tested for the presence of E. coli. However, primal cuts, such as steaks and roasts, are usually not tested. When stores or consumers grind these primal cuts, it's possible that pathogens may be present on the raw beef, and neither you nor meat market employees can see, smell, or taste dangerous bacteria. In addition, USDA-inspected plants have Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures that cover policies such as the cleaning of grinding machines and the handling and chilling of ground beef. Consumers and stores might not follow such stringent sanitary procedures.”

USDA expects to publish a new risk assessment in late 2012 or early 2013 that will provide more information about the safety profile of these products. 1

  1. Ground Beef and Food Safety