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Jan 12, 2011 09:41 AM

Ground beef - need help with percentages

I'm looking for information on different grades of ground beef in the US - in terms of fat percentage for each grade. I live in Canada, where we generally have a choice of medium, lean and extra lean ground beef - labelled as such in supermarket meat department. Can anyone tell me what are the 3 most common grades of ground beef in the US (not specialty grinds - just what's readily available) and what percentage fat is in each one? Sorry if this is a bit technical - I've googled myself cross-eyed and can't figure it out.

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  1. Generally, the ground meats here are labeled by percent... i.e. 20%, 15%, etc. with the % equalling the fat content.

    1. I'm not an expert, but here in the US we generally refer to "grades" of beef when with regard to quality standards (measured by marbling, etc.) and specific cuts. I have yet to come across accessible information on graded beef cuts (non-ground) and fat percentages in the US.
      Instead, our ground beef tends to be labeled by specific cut (when applicable) and fat percentage. Generically-labeled "ground hamburger" can have mixed sources, but no more than 30% fat. "Ground beef", on the other hand, comes from a single source (usually chuck or sirloin) and has up to roughly 20-25% fat. Chuck has about 20% and sirloin has 10-15%. Packages marked "lean" ground beef and "extra lean" should have about 20% and 15%, respectively. If you are looking for truly lean ground meat, your best bet is to buy a package of ground sirloin or have a butcher grind a fresh piece of lean meat for you.

      1. In Seattle, our ground beef is typically labeled with the percentage of fat. in the stores I regularly frequent, I can commonly but 23% fat, 16% fat, and 9% fat, or there abouts. the latter two may also say lean and extra lean.

        1. There are four basic types of ground beef in the US, and these cuts are used: round, sirloin, chuck and ground beef, from the less popular and tender cuts; round being the leanest at 10%, sirloin, 15%, chuck 20% and beef at 27%, to no more than 30% fat content.

          Obviously, the more fat, the more juiciness, but the more moisture loss and shrinkage as well. Ground chuck is the one I normally use for burgers and ground round for general cooking, chili, etc. Aside from the cut, the only difference between these grades is the percentage of fat in the grind.

          Beef is graded in the US, there are eight separate grades ranging from Prime to Canner (pet food) based on quality and intramuscular fat, but ground beef is not graded; inspected, but not graded. Beef grading is voluntary in the US, inspection falls to the state laws, or if transported over state lines, is under federal inspection laws. I don't think this is what you meant when you wrote "different grades of ground beef," but I just wanted to be clear that there is a difference between graded beef and grades of ground beef, based on % of fat.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bushwickgirl

            In my experience, I usually 90/10 ground beef labeled as "ground sirloin", and 85/15 ground beef being labeled as "ground round". ( I know "ground x" can vary in fat percentage (e.g. a ground round may be only10% fat, ground sirloin only 8% fat, etc.) but side-by-side I've typically seen ground sirloin labeled as a leaner choice compared to round....)

            Other than that, I virtually nod my head in agreement. :)

          2. Thanks all - I just needed to know the terminology for US supermarket ground beef. Your answers helped.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nyleve

              In the U.S., if the meat is from a particular cut, it will say so, and the price will reflect that. If the package is labeled "ground beef" or "ground hamburger", it is from a mixture of trimmings and odds and ends, and although the meat portion might or might not be delicious, it is higher in fat than more expensive ground cuts. . Most people prefer burgers made from ground chuck or ground sirloin.