Buying ground beef from the store is a pretty straightforward process. Simple go to the store, find the meat section, select the package labeled “ground beef,” and then head on home and cook that bad boy up. However, even though this is an easy process, you probably don’t realize that you’re buying more than just beef. What you’re buying is quite the mystery itself. Do you like mystery beef? Most people seem to be okay with it considering that’s what most of the conveniently packaged ground beef packages are.
The Beef with Ground Beef
The biggest issue with ground beef is the contamination problem in the beef supply in general, according to Urvashi Rangan, chief scientific adviser at Grace Communications Foundation in New York City.
During his previous research as an executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center, found a higher risk for foodborne pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli in conventional beef as opposed to grass-fed, sustainably raised beef.
Ground beef is problematic in general because the moment you begin to cut into it and begin processing is when you start to introduce contamination or cross-contamination if bacteria is already present, according to Rangan. Other factors that do not ease anxiety surrounding buying ground beef is that according to the 2015 Consumer Reports: there are usually two or more stages in the grinding process, and the end product is typically a mixture of trimmings of many cows, possibly from other countries.
Buy Whole, Then Grind
A better way to pick up some cleaner ground beef is to have the butcher grind it up for you. For example, get a steak and then have it ground for you on the spot. Chuck steak is ideal if you plan to make burgers, but whatever it is that you plan to cook, make sure there’s some fat to it.
Most grocery stores and butchers will do the grinding for you if you ask, so don’t be shy about asking. If no one is behind the meat counter, seek out a manager or store manager. Rangan also suggests going one further by looking for organic and grass-fed label meats. This will indicate that what you are buying is sustainably raised beef, and is free of antibiotics or growth hormones.
In particular, grass-fed beef tends to not only be “cleaner,” but more nutritious, according to Rangan. He also says that grass-fed beef has more Omega-3s and Omega-6s, which have much better fatty acid profiles, than conventional. It’s just all around better for you.
For the DIY-er
Want to take your health into your own hands? Bring that steak home and grind it up yourself. If you have a grinder attachment on your stand mixer, you can quickly grind your beef at home. If you want to skip the supermarket altogether, but also stay with the single-source beef realm, you’ve got a few options. Buy from a local farmer or join a CSA; many meat farms offer meat-only shares.
In Seattle, there is a startup called Crowd Cow that sells shares of whole cows from small sustainable ranchers. When all the shares in a cow have been bought, the cow is slaughtered and the cuts you’ve specified online will ship. It’s a sure-fire way to get ground beef from one cow, and one cow only.
Keep in mind that bacteria can spread no matter where or how you buy your meats; this is why it is so important to cook your meat thoroughly.Related: Stop Eating Chicken Breast With White Striping