Myth: It’s Unnatural for Ground Beef to be Made of Meat From More Than One Animal
Not true, and to understand why, one must understand how ground beef is made and the food safety strategies that are used.
Just like orange juice might come from multiple orange trees, a jar of apple sauce might contain apples from numerous trees or a gallon of milk might come from more than one cow, your ground beef might come from multiple cattle.
When a large carcass is cut into steaks and roasts, small pieces called trimmings result. Trimmings are simply the pieces that are trimmed from larger cuts and look like the beef stew meat you might find in your grocer’s case. These are perfectly wholesome and nutritious cuts of beef, but they are smaller than a normal cut and ideal for grinding. To make the most of the trimmings, they are ground together in certain fat to lean to fat proportions to make ground beef in formulations like 80 percent lean/20 percent fat or 90 percent lean/10 percent fat.
Half of all the beef consumed in North America is consumed as ground beef. It tends to be one of the more economical beef options in the meat case and gives consumers a wide variety of meat options.
Like all beef, beef trimmings are produced under federal inspection. When trimmings are ground together, this grinding is also done under federal inspection. Many countries have established sampling programs to verify the safety of these products. In the case of the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) samples ground beef and the trimmings for E. coli O157:H7 as well as other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli 1 and processors run their own tests for E. coli and other bacteria as part of standard food safety management programs.
Grinding safe and inspected trimmings together results in a safe product. A single, whole muscle cut like a chuck roast can also be ground into a safe ground beef product. The mere fact that one comes from a larger piece and another comes from smaller pieces, however, does not impact food safety or quality of the ground beef.