Ground Beef Is Now Better Than Ever. Here's Why

Things have been weird lately when it comes to our meat supply. Okay, when it comes to everything, pretty much. But meat, case in point — what is up with that? First, we thought beef prices were going to go way down due to reduced demand from a virus-stricken China, but then, well, that didn't happen. Then that same virus hit our shores and had a devastating impact on just about every sector of our economy, but one area that was particularly hard-hit was that of meat-processing plants due to working conditions which turned out to be conducive to the spread of illness amongst workers. 

Well, this, in turn, has led to meat shortages, which were further exacerbated by panic buying, and we're now at the point where there's a scarcity of certain types of meat in most stores (and none of it's cheap by anyone's standards).

While ground beef may be hard to come by these days, there is a little silver lining to the great big cloud of shortages and ever-rising prices — suddenly, what hamburger meat is still available is of much higher quality than the stuff we were seeing in stores just a few months back.

There's an excess of one type of beef

While meat may be in such short supply that some grocers, including Costco, are having to impose limits on its purchase and even restaurants are being impacted (Wendy's, for one, is running out of burgers at some locations), there is one type of meat where there's actually an excess amount on the market — super-premium beef. 

Typically, most high-priced steaks are served up in restaurants, since if you're paying $60 (or more) for a steak, you might as well make sure it's being cooked by a professional. Well, many high-end restaurants are closed for the duration of the pandemic, since they're all about the luxury experience and this isn't something that really translates well to takeout or delivery. 

This leaves beef suppliers with no supply-ees, to the point where Food & Wine has reported that some extremely lucky food banks have been receiving donations of Wagyu steaks.

The real reason behind rising beef quality

Beef that isn't donated, however, has been finding its way into the grinder and resurfacing with a new identity as plain old hamburger. While most ground beef has historically been made with less-prime cuts of beef, Andy Wiederhorn, chief executive of the company that owns burger chain Fatburger, told the New York Post, "The burgers will get better for a few weeks, because there is a glut of prime meat." 

Richard Romanoff, head of Bronx-based meat wholesaler Nebraskaland, points out, though, that you won't have any way to tell whether the package of hamburger meat you pick up is going to be made with bovine prime real estate, or whether you're getting meat from the cow's low-rent district, since the package will just be marked 100 percent beef, as usual. He added, "People have no idea what's in their chuck meat anyway," a remark which under normal circumstances might sound a trifle ominous, but at present might just mean that we're in for some amazingly tasty tacos.

Tired of tacos, but still want to make the most of this unexpected beef bonanza? Here are a few more recipes you could try to put that ground meat to best use.