Here's Why You Should Think Twice About Buying Pre-Packaged Ground Beef

We eat a lot of ground beef in the United States. In fact, according to Beef 2 Live, when you're preparing beef at home, 60 percent of the time, it's ground beef. It's used for burgers for backyard barbecues and to make the yummy beef filling for Taco Tuesdays. Ground beef can be a part of so many different meals it makes it a favorite for busy, on-the-go families.

What exactly is ground beef? In order to claim the title, this beef product can have no more than 30 percent fat. However, ground beef can come from any part of the cow's body, and it is generally a mixture of fat and meat from leftover trimmings. These trimmings can come from pretty much any beef cut, but these trimmings also don't necessarily originate from the same cow. Instead, they are an amalgamation of meat from several animals, and most likely ground in a different location from where they were collected. 

Stores label the type of ground beef you are getting based on the cut of meat it came from. You might find one labeled ground chuck, which means it's made from chuck trimmings. Ground sirloin, on the other hand, comes from sirloin bits and pieces (via Epicurious). But if you are buying pre-packaged ground beef, you may want to think twice and instead buy beef that was ground in the store.

The beef with pre-packaged ground beef

Store-ground beef is beef that is ground by the butcher at the store you are purchasing it from. One of the advantages of store-ground beef is that because you are picking the meat cut being ground, you know it came from a single piece of meat — and therefore, a single animal. Why do we care about how many cows our ground beef comes from? As Taste of Home explains, if it comes from multiple cows and one of them has a dreaded bacteria like E.coli or Salmonella, all the ground beef that was made from those trimmings will also be contaminated, which places consumers at risk. No one wants to deal with this type of grossness or risk their family's health. Buying store ground beef can be safer for this reason.

What cut should you ask to have ground? It really depends on what you are going to use it for. Cooks Illustrated conducted a taste test and found their taste testers preferred ground chuck and sirloin over ground round and prepackaged ground beef. They further offered that ground chuck was favored for hamburgers while ground sirloin found a fan base for meatloaf and Bolognese sauce.