Monday, November 24, 2014

Cheap Ground Beef Can be Just as Healthy as Extra Lean!




Each week before we do our weekly shopping we gather our locals ads and check out the sales at the various supermarkets in the DFW area as our local Walmart will price match ads from their competitors. Price matching is one of the many strategies that my family uses to get the best deal we can thereby lowering our food budget without compromising on quality. One of the items we try and keep an amble supply of is ground beef. While we have cut down our eating of red meat, I use regular ground beef (you know the cheap stuff) in many of my casseroles, tacos, spaghetti, soups, breakfast burritos, homemade Rice-A-Roni and Hamburger helper mixes and other recipes. I know, I know, the cheap stuff is full of fat and unhealthy right..... Well maybe not. What if I told you the cheap old regular ground beef could be as low fat as the more expensive lean ground beef. You'd think I was crazy right? Well read on my friends and prepare to be amazed!

When checking out the meat department of your local supermarket, the most common types of ground beef you will find are: Extra Lean (93/7), Lean (90/10), Ground Chuck (80/20), Regular Ground (73/27). All ground beef is labeled according to it's fat to meat ratio. The number on the left side of the hash mark is the percentage of meat in the product and the number of the left is the percentage of fat content. So extra lean is 93% beef and 7% fat, whereas on the other end of the spectrum regular ground is 73% meat and 27% fat. Depending on the supermarket, the actual description or labels on the ground beef package may be different, but no matter the descriptor, the important part to remember is the fat to meat ratio of the product.

Obviously ground beef with a lower fat content is higher priced. In our local Walmart extra lean (93/7) is actually more than $1.10 per pound higher than ground chuck (80/20), and $1.50 per pound higher than regular ground (73/27). Many homemakers feel that they have to sacrifice their families health by purchasing ground beef with a higher fat content simply because of the price. In addition, ground beef of higher fat contents can be purchased in bulk (3 to 5lb chubs) for substantial price savings, while the more lean ground beef is generally sold in only 1 to 2.25lb packages.


As you can see, purchasing regular ground beef (73/27) in a 5lb chub (tube) is actually 46% cheaper than purchasing lean (93/27) ground beef. These of course are regular store prices, if you comparison shop you may actually find regular ground beef even cheaper. I know, I know, what about the unhealthy fat content of cheap ground beef? Well, the good news is that regular ground beef (73/27) when cooked and prepared properly can be as almost as healthy as the higher priced extra lean (93/7) or lean (90/10) ground beef. I realize this almost seems impossible, but you do not have to take my word for it. There is plenty of documented proof that validates this outlandish statement.


Iowa State University Study (1992)

According to a study conducted at Iowa State University in 1992, ground beef of three different fat levels (90/10, 80/20, 73/27) were prepared by browning the ground beef in a pan (pan frying). In the first test, three 100 gram (3.5 ounce) samples of the ground beef were placed on paper towels after cooking and blotted for 30 seconds. In the second test, three 100 gram (3.5 ounce) samples of the ground beef were placed on paper towels and then placed in a strainer, and rinsed with hot water (150°F), and allowed to drain for five minutes. The results of their findings are listed in the following table.
 
      Iowa State University (1992) Grams of Fat
Product 90/10 80/20 73/27
Ground Beef, uncooked 10g 20g 27g
Ground Beef, pan fried 8g 11g 11g
Ground Beef, pan fried and rinsed 3g 4g 4g

The results of this particular study are quite eye opening. According to Iowa State University's research, the cheaper regular ground beef (73/27) when cooked and rinsed had almost the same identical fat content as the more expensive lean ground beef (90/10). While simply blotting the ground beef with paper towels did reduce the overall fat content, rinsing the cooked beef further reduced the difference in fat content between the lean (90/10) and regular ground (73/25) beef from 3 grams to only 1 gram.

The one major thing missing form the Iowa State University research is that they did not include a weight/yield ratio. A weight/yield ratio is simply a pre and post cook weight of each ground beef sample. While we know the precooked weight of the ground beef (100g) we do not know the cooked weight. A weight/yield ratio is simply the precooked weight minus the post cooked weight. For example if the precooked weight of the ground beef is 100g, and the cooked weight is 73g then the yield of the cooked beef is 73% (73 divided by 100 = 0.73 or 73%). Fortunately for us the next study does include a weight/yield ratio.


Canadian Beef Information Centre (BIC) Study (1997)

In 1997, the Canadian government released similar research which is available from the 'Beef Information Centre (BIC)' at www.beefinfo.org. While they classify their ground beef similarly to U.S. standards, there are some minor differences. According to the BIC, lean ground beef is classified as any ground beef with a fat content of less than 17%, medium ground beef is classified as any ground beef with a fat content of less than 23%, and regular ground beef is any ground beef with a fat content of less than 30%.

As with the research performed at Iowa State University, the Canadian researchers browned (pan fried) three 100 gram samples (3.5 ounces) of lean, medium and regular ground beef. However, in the Canadian research, only the regular ground beef was rinsed with hot water after being cooked, as the focus of their research was to show that regular ground beef when cooked and rinsed with hot water was actually leaner than lean beef that was not rinsed after cooking.

BIC Study (1997) Grams of Fat
Product Lean Medium Regular
Ground Beef, uncooked 13.1g 16.1g 24.1g
Ground Beef, pan fried 9.5g 11.4g 15.1g
Ground Beef, pan fried and rinsed n/a n/a 9.4g
Lean (maximum fat content 17%)

Medium (maximum fat content 23%)

Regular (maximum fat content 30%)


Looking at the chart we see the ground beef the BIC used in their research was comprised of lean (87/13), medium (84/16), and regular (76/24). The results of Canadian research validate the findings of the Iowa State University research conducted in 1992. As expected, the BIC concluded that the cheaper regular ground beef when browned and rinsed with hot water had an overall fat content less than that of lean ground beef that was not rinsed with hot water after cooking. Now, I am sure, that rinsing both the lean and medium grade of ground beef after cooking would reduce the overall fat content of both as well, however as I mentioned earlier this was not the focus of the BIC study.

So rinsing away the fat is great, but what about the overall yield of regular ground beef compared with that of the more expensive lean ground beef. After all, if you only have half the amount of beef remaining after cooking and rinsing then when you started compared to the lean or extra lean, your not really saving any money. Well I think you will be surprised and pleased with the yield of ground beef compared to that of lean.

BIC Study (1997) Weight/Yield ratio
Product Lean Medium Regular
Ground Beef, uncooked wt 100g 100g 100g
Ground Beef, pan fried 66.5g 65.1g 58.7g
Ground Beef, pan fried and rinsed n/a n/a 62.3g
Lean (maximum fat content 17%)

Medium (maximum fat content 23%)

Regular (maximum fat content 30%)


As you can see, the yield of the less expensive regular ground beef after cooking and being rinsed (62.3g) is only slightly less than that of the lean ground beef after cooking (66.5g). That is to say the lean ground beef after cooking lost 33.5% of it's precooked weight, whereas the regular ground lost 37.7% of it's precooked weight. The difference in loss between the two is only 4.2%. Yes, the lean ground beef had a higher yield by 4.2%, however it costs 30 to 47% more than the regular ground beef depending on where your purchased your ground beef and whether or not you purchased it in bulk.


Low Carbohydrate High Fat (LCHF)

Obviously if you are following a LCHF eating program, you are not worried about your fat intake. In fact, the higher fat ground beef is actually a better choice for making hamburger patties or Salisbury Steak


Conclusion

So what does all this mean for us? Well we can draw several conclusions from this research. First, purchasing cheaper ground beef to use in your recipes can lead to significant cost savings. Second, by following a few simple steps, you can reduce the fact content of cheaper ground beef to approximately that of significantly more expensive lean ground beef. The bottom line is that if you are on a budget like many of us are, you can save significant money on your food bill by purchasing regular ground beef on sale and or in bulk without sacrificing the health of your family.


References:


The Canadian Beef Centre, accessed 10/10/12


Buege, D. 1993. Reducing fat in ground beef. Wisconsin Meat Facts and Analysis. ME 93-1.
Love, J.A. and K.J. Prusa. 1992. Nutrient composition and sensory attributes of cooked ground beef: Effect of fat content, cooking method, and water rinsing. J Am Diet Assoc 92:1367-1371.
USDA National Nutrient Database: Tips for Reducing Fat in Cooked Ground Beef Crumbles by Rinsing

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