The Amount Of Beef Required In Salisbury Steak By The USDA Might Surprise You

If you were lucky enough, you may have first been exposed to Salisbury steak by one of the most convenient, affordable, yet satisfyingly tasty food inventions the world has ever seen — the TV dinner. (Okay, we may be a little biased from cherished childhood memories, but stay with us here.) One of the most popular frozen dinners out there, as any ready-made meal connoisseur knows, is the Banquet Classic Salisbury Steak. Served alongside a few spoonfuls of corn, a sweet apple cinnamon apple dessert, and mashed potatoes that can be skillfully cooked to perfection in the hands of an experienced microwave user, the Salisbury steak comes complete with added char marks and a pool of delicious gravy.

But, to be sold as a Salisbury steak in the first place, the product has to contain the requisite amount of beef according to USDA standards. These standards are outlined in the illustrious Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book. Although the book lists a lot of food items, it's not exactly a recipe book. It does, however, contain a list of food standards that allow for some creativity, while ensuring that diners are receiving a consistent product when they opt for one of their favorite dishes, like a Salisbury steak.

What does it take to be a Salisbury steak?

First, let's get to the meat of the matter. According to the Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, Salisbury steak must contain at least 65% meat. A quarter of that meat "block" can contain pork with the remainder in beef, or it can be made up of "12% partially defatted chopped beef and pork." Then, it comes to the mix-ins. "Extenders" can be used up to 12% or 6.8% if isolated soy protein is used. Those filler ingredients can include cereal, cracker meal, and a host of other possibilities (via 

There are a few other rules for Salisbury steaks. It can't be breaded or contain meat byproducts, but liquids like water, broth, milk, cream, and skim milk are allowed. Interestingly, beef heart meat can be used, and, maybe fortunately, fat is limited to 30 percent. If the final product doesn't meet those requirements? According to the USDA, it can simply be sold as "Patties for Salisbury." But, maybe a better name for the imposter dish would be a Salisbury sneak?