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Ground Beef: Are my taste buds getting too old, or does Ground Beef have little taste compared to apprx 20 years ago?

After all these years, I suddenly remembered having to skim fat off the ground beef when I made pasta sauce with it. Now, even with 20% fat it still has little taste. I've tried adding half with ground pork. I've had the butcher grind cuts of beef for me. I tried grass-fed beef.
The fat is gone from beef and therefore the meaty, beefy taste.
If you're old enough to remember how ground beef used to taste, what's your response?

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  1. I think an individual goes through changes as the body ages.....including their taste buds. The problem exists no further than the individual....sure beef and pork are raised differently than years ago.....some for the better and some for the worse....but to say good flavorful beef is no longer available, I would have to disagree.

    1. I would tend to say "both," except that every so often I get some that instantly reminds me of the old days. For a while, Trader Joe's had prepackaged 1/4 pound grass-fed "steakburgers" that were nearly as good as the very best burgers of my very long memory, richly beefy no matter how I cooked them. Golly, I miss those!

      One thing I look out for is whether the burger is flat-grilled or flame-broiled. To my taste, flame-broiling does less to bump the flavor than contact with a hot, solid surface does. I've had some very good open-grilled burgers, but all of the best ones have been off a flat grill or out of a pan.

      1. I think the flavour of beef has lessened in recent years, regardless of whether it's long or quick cooked cuts of meat. It's about how the animals are raised and how long the meat is aged for, before its sold.

        I buy most of my meat via the internet, direct from the farm two counties away. It's raised to organic or free-range standards and it tastes good. Very good.

        1. It's not your taste buds. I recently bought ground beef from a local farmer and the taste reminded me of what a good burger used to taste like. It was amazing.

          1. Definitely the flavor of commercial ground beef as available in supermarkets has gone downhill. I don't bother making burgers at home anymore unless I can get beef from a good butcher or farm.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JMF

              It's the same with chicken. It has no taste of it's own any more. But one of those heritage farm chickens and boy, you're right back to what chicken should taste like.

            2. A lot of it has to do with how the animal is fed and raised

              A healthy steer with a low stress life, feeding on quality pasture and finished on quality grain produces great tasting beef from nose to tail.

              Very little beef is raised that way these days.

              Today we have unhealthy stressed animals that are put on the feedlot too early and fed garbage.

              They don't taste nice.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Brandon Nelson

                Yet the sicko-s who raise them like that sell them and make huge profits.That is why I stopped eating meats after being a carnivore since age 3. The products are not quality but the price is unbelievable.Being raised on the real thing and wanting it yet not wanting to *hoop jump* just to obtain a few pounds of grass fed beef for the freezer or real chickens and pork I finally said forget it....plant based it will be for awhile.I will resume being a carnivore as soon as I figure out where to source decent beef ---pork and chicken without having to travel 90 miles to Sonoma county or break the bank.

                1. re: Lillipop

                  It's about a 4 hour round trip for me to get my organic/pastured beef, pork, chicken, eggs and raw milk. Yes, I pay a premium for the pork and most cuts of beef and chicken; however, the ground beef is comparable in price to regular ground sirloin and the chicken wings are cheaper than regular wings. No comparison for the raw milk as it is not sold in the state in which i reside, but comparing it to locally available organic milk, it's about a dollar more a gallon. Aside from additional costs in gas and car wear-and-tear, there's only a few dollar difference in what I pay at the farm and what I pay at the grocery.

                  When I do make the trip, I always make a day-trip out of it with sight-seeing and shopping thrown in.

                  1. re: Vidute

                    I can afford the prices. Now that the weather is better I guess I should plan on driving up to Petaluma (my home town) and getting meats...eggs...etc.

                  2. re: Lillipop

                    Beef ranchers don't tend to make "huge profits". The production of any agricultural commodity, especially here in the USA, is a very hard way to make a living.

                    That is why beef production has contracted to @ 4 major players. The massive producers like IBP and Cargill have the production scale necessary to produce really cheap beef.

                    When the consumer refuses to pay real world prices for a product the outfits that cut corners can really thrive.

                    1. re: Brandon Nelson

                      Consumers who are paid a minimum wage that is effectively lower than it was in the 70's (when steak was on sale for less than $1 a pound) cannot afford higher prices. Meat is pricing itself out of the average consumer's market. So continue to export it to the rich people abroad, the American rich will buy the Japanese-style beef too. But stop blaming consumers for being too poor to eat it.

                      1. re: lillyx

                        Good meat has never been cheap. Since the dawn of history it has always been the case that the majority of people in most countries couldn't afford it except on special occasions.

                        One thing that has changed is the expectation that meat should be available as something other than a special-occasion treat. There is some progress - there's no doubt that good meat is cheaper, in relative terms, than it would have been in, say, the Middle Ages, but in absolute terms it's still the sort of thing that a typical family in a first-world nation today would have difficulty justifying more than about once per week, I suspect. All of this is approximate. However the idea that meat can be consumed every day by most people is probably unsustainable.

                        Which is not to say that we should all be considering vegetarian diets - but it is to say that perhaps it's better to be realistic about meat choices - and stretch what you do buy by incorporating it in things that stretch it a long way: more pasta sauces and stews, fewer steaks and hamburgers - than it is to opt for low-quality, low-flavour meat in order to have it every day. What, really, are you gaining if you do? My view is that more of less is really just less.

                        Consumers could probably do with an understanding of how much it would actually cost, for truly quality meat - but also enough social encouragement to feel good about paying more, less often, for high quality, than paying less, more often, for low quality. Right now society encourages more consumption - and perhaps suggests that making the conscious choice to go for high quality with lower frequency in some sense diminishes your social status, a very corrosive implication to say the least.

                        Just so I'm clear, though, this isn't specifically about being "happy with less". It's rather about being clear on what you actually value and not buying blindly something that in actual fact doesn't give much satisfaction. If you do that you're actually being "unhappy with more".

                        1. re: lillyx

                          I would argue that pound for pound, ground beef & many economy cuts of beef are still a whole lot cheaper and healthier than the millions of pounds of fast food consumed during the average 24 hour period.

                    2. It is the beef. I stopped consuming meat Jan 2nd but I have been a voracious meat eater for 56 years before that:) What we ate in the late 50's and 60's had yellow fat tasted good super tender juicy and beefy tasting and the bones just oozed delicious goo.When I was still eating meat I found that either S-mart foods here in N California or Safeway has delicious ground round or ground sirloin for burgers. They will grind it for you too if none of their packages look appetizing.Those were my preferences because they tasted really *meaty* and once in awhile I could score a ground chuck that tasted meaty.But when I was eating meat I was picky. I wanted a strong beef flavor and a rare burger.I also wanted that strong beef flavor for meat sauce so I always paid that extortionist price of $4.99 a pound or $5.99 a pound. Now I eat Boca burgers or Garden Burgers:) Chickens were different too than the factory farmed mass produced things in the store. They were not the size of a toddler and there was color to them and they oozed delicious yellow chicken fat.The bones also oozed goodness and were meant for gnawing by happy little kids polishing off mama's fried chicken.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lillipop



                        that's what's in a boca burger. i wouldn't touch that frankenfood even when i was a vegetarian.

                        1. re: foiegras

                          I've purchased bison twice and there isn't enough fat to make a decent burger, even if you cook a 5oz burger to medium.

                          I remember beef in the 70s and 1980s have much more beefy flavor. My parents bought 1/2 of a Hereford or angus every fall and my dad insisted that it be dry aged for 2 weeks. I buy certified angus beef and it still has very little flavor.

                          Modern pork is equally tasteless and chicken could be replaced by packing peanuts with little loss in flavor.

                          Last summer I bought 2 lbs of grass fed organic lamb and it might as well have been veal with a fur coat. It was tasteless.
                          The last time I had a piece of beef that had any significant flavor was a grass fed flat iron steak from Neiman Ranch.
                          I live in farm country of central Ohio and I'm on the verge of going vegetarian because meat has no flavor.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            BEEF: Last time I bought a Whole Certified Hereford Beef striploin (about 8 yrs ago) it definitely had a stronger beef flavor and much less marbling. If you Google "Certified Hereford Beef" and go to the store locator a whole bunch of places come up in OH. I am sure its avail mail order too.

                            PORK: Most supermarket pork is the "other white meat" from the Midwest. It's so devoid of marbling its dry and tasteless. To solve the dryness problem, much of it is now pumped with water which dilutes the pork flavor even more. Leidy's PA raised pork has more marbling and its not pumped. May be able to get it in OH. Excel Sterling Silver is also not bad.

                        2. The flavor IS missing. According to this article from the Denver Post, feedlots are using a drug called Zilmax to more quickly bulk-up the cattle. In its FDA application, Intervet, Inc, the company that originally produced Zilmax, stated that "overall tenderness, juiciness, flavor intensity and beef flavor were all statistically different [in Zilmax-treated beef] compared to controls."

                          So, it's not changing/aging taste buds, it's how the cattle are being raised.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Vidute

                            I am not sure how much impact this would have on ground beef as much of it comes from dairy cows blended with imported coarse ground beef. Cheap fat can also be added.

                            I think one of the problems is lack of freshness. Most supermarket G/B is pre-ground and vacuumed sealed in chubs well in advance of retail purchase. I have found G/B from small butchers that mix in their trimmings with quality pre-ground is still pretty good.

                          2. If you don't have a good local butcher, grinding your own is a great alternative. Fresh as you can get, can customize blends & control fat content to your liking. Its soooo easy.

                            A good stand alone electric grinder can be had for about $150.00. A great stand alone grinder is about $275.00 and with proper care will last a lifetime and your kids will be fighting over it one day.

                            Soon you will be grinding beef, pork, chicken & turkey.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Tom34

                              My late father had a grinder that he clamped onto the edge of our kitchen table or the counter top. He used to grind everything with that grinder.He used to crank that handle for what seemed like hours with out ever breaking a sweat...he was very muscular being a carpenter. How do you think one of those would work in this day and age?They are in the $35.00 price range.

                              1. re: Lillipop

                                They work, just slower and certainly more work. I always throw the cutting head in the freezer for a 1/2 hr or so and the strips of meat on a cookie sheet and in the freezer also for a 1/2 hr. I also let the grind fall into a bowl that just came out of the freezer.

                                If your going to do a 2nd grind, re chill the head & rough ground. A big ziplock bag around the grinder head will keep any pieces of ground meat from falling out into the freezer during 2nd chill.

                            2. I have had the same complaint about ground beef for some time...I NEVER buy any beef at Walmart...All of it is tasteless and has a strange texture...I used to get decent ground beef at Sams Club(totally different meat than Walmart) but even that doesnt taste as good as it once did...When I really want good ground beef I go to a store we have called Winn Dixie and have them grind whole cuts for me and I make sure to tell them to leave the fat on and/or add more fat if its too lean...The butcher will tell you what cuts in the case will make the best ground beef. Obviously finding those whole cuts on sale is your best bet...My mother actually used to have them grind steak cuts and ofcourse her hamburger steaks were fabulous because it WAS steak...I do think you can still get good ground beef but you really have to look hard for a store that buys quality beef and does its own cutting and grinding but be prepared to pay alot more than we used to for ground beef...I also do 50/50 beef and ground pork for some recipes and its fabulous...

                              1. I'm not sure where you live, but if you can make it to Mt. Kisco on a Saturday morning there is a farmer's market where John from John Boy's farms brings his amazing meat. The burgers are amazing - like you were a kid again. He actually emails what he will have that week and you need to let him know what you want. In the summer he is in Mt. Kisco on Saturday, Muscoot and Pound Ridge on Sundays. You can email him at johnboysmarket@aol.com. It's pricey, but its really good!

                                1. Well, you have your answer, but to add to the chorus: I grew up working in a gourmet butcher shop, and it's definitely the beef. I recently posted a ChowQuery on the subject of finding a vendor of Great steaks/roasts, etc. and got several vg replies: Flannery in California, etc. So far, tried the Aukushi beef (30$/lb rib eye) and it was markedly better taste. I bet if you bought online from Flannery their ground chuck or, better yet, bought X lbs/chuck and ground it fresh yourself, you'd be happy.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: dickgrub

                                    A lot of it has to do with things that occurred in the 1970's.

                                    The first was the demise of hanging beef where between storage & transit a side of beef could hang for several weeks dry aging before the beef hit the meat case. Today, 90% of beef is broken down into sub primals & vacuum sealed in plastic bags within hours of slaughter and often in the meat case w/in 10 days.

                                    The other big factor was the change in the grading system that led to overall leaner meat.

                                    Another more recent factor is the demand for USDA high prime beef in Countries like Japan. Like our top grade tuna, a very large % of our high prime is exported.

                                    1. re: dickgrub

                                      Fortunately there are still many branded products like Excel Sterling Silver & Certified Angus Beef which grade high choice or low prime. Sub Primals from these brands generally have about 3 weeks wet age which makes them very tender and they can be removed from the bags and dry aged for added flavor.

                                      Much, much better than the avg supermarket beef and while a 14 lb boneless strip loin seems like a lot of beef, it portions very easily and freezes well and it won't be around very long anyway. .

                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        A little off topic to your post, but I just bought some frozen Certified brand Angus hamburgers at BJs, because they were labeled as brisket and chuck so they sounded a little special; they were some of the best burgers I've ever had, as good as any I've had at a steakhouse. Not just the flavor but so tender, even after being frozen and grilled. I'm running back there next week to stock up!

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Hey Coll,

                                          Funny you mentioned CAB burgers. About 2 months ago I split a 16 lb case of 8 oz CAB "Custom Blend" burgers that came from a major purveyor. I am almost positive they were the blend you speak of. I think the case was about $65.00. Salesman said they rival LaFrieda.

                                          This week I bought a 16 lb case of CAB "Regular Blend" from the same purveyor. They were $56.00.

                                          Both were delicious. Both cases were fresh, never frozen. The patties came in plastic sleeves that had a "light" vacuum seal. The box date on the last batch was May 26th and the freeze by date was June 14th.

                                          I know you were in the business and may be able to get the above "fresh" from a friend. I usually end up freezing some but they are definitely better fresh. How many oz patties and final cost of the BJ's ones?

                                          1. re: Tom34

                                            My box had six 5.3z and they were individually wrapped as you describe. It was on sale for $9.95, I'm planning to stop by BJs tomorrow so I'll see if it's much more normally. Mine cost about a dollar a lb more than yours but then again, I doubt the two of us will go through 16 lbs, or even 8 lbs, this summer!

                                            We used to sell raw fresh top end burgers, it was a small local (NJ?) company run by a father and his sons; they made every different kind including sirloin, chuck, brisket, I don't remember them all nor if there were blends, but we sure had fun at meetings getting to taste test them all!

                                            1. re: coll

                                              I usually grind my own or get it from a friend who works with hanging beef and grinds the scraps. His is by far the best and he will eat it raw in front of you.

                                              I got turned onto the CAB burgers from a local tavern. The consensus is they are about the best production burger available from the big purveyors.

                                              Bubba Burgers and many others brands recommend cooking from frozen. With the CAB, I always slow thaw in the fridge and then cook.

                                              My wife shops at BJ's. I will have to have her see if they carry them locally as its good to know in a pinch. I recently had Bubba's Angus Burgers at a friends house. Absolutely no comparison to the CAB's. Bubba's almost seem unnatural like they are pumped with something.

                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                Yeah I bought some Bubba after a customer of mine raved about them. They tasted like a sponge!

                                                I usually take out frozen burgers that morning and let them mostly thaw, but we do like it rare/medium rare so if I bought it fresh I might just freeze it a bit before throwing on the grill. I do the same thing with fresh tuna, the easiest way not to overcook.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Sponge is a good way to describe them. Something more than a combination of lean and standard fat going on there.

                                                  I hear you on the M/R. Thats a good way to do it especially if the patties are on the thinner side.

                                    2. I'd suggest talking to the butcher directly and have him grind some beef for you. I usually do 4-5 pounds at a time then freeze it. Grinding it directly from the muscle at the store will be better than whatever packaged stuff you get. Plus you can grind whatever cuts you like - I use a mix of short rib and chuck.

                                      1. I remember ground beef having more flavor. I don't think it's my taste buds, because other foods taste the same as always. I would like to find a source for really good hamburger. Any suggestions?

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: katgroch

                                          search for grass fed pastured beef

                                          Whole food$ ha$ it but depending on your region you may be able to find a better local source, still expect to pay a premium for it.

                                          alternately and possibly more affordably

                                          if you have access to a traditional butcher have them grind it for you from a cut of your choosing - at least you know what part of the animal its coming from and that its coming from one animal

                                          1. re: JTPhilly

                                            Tens of thousands of feed lots give the poor beasts, already suffering from life-long chronic 'runs' chemicals in their feed that makes them consume HUGe amounts of water at exactly the right time before their night mare trip to the slaughter house where they are given an injection to basically 'zone them out' to everything around them so as not to cause a hormone spike that 'fires' the meat cells.
                                            When they are slaughtered their cells are holding literally as much water as they can.
                                            So when you buy the packaged meat you are paying for as much water as the producers can get in the cells.
                                            The same is true for pork and poultry.
                                            Kool eh?
                                            Friday's catch and this morning's catch of rainbows.
                                            Tonight it's 'trout burgers'.

                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                              not everybody eats cafo meats. nor does everybody live on a lake.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                I am not thrilled with what happens on the feedlot but there are a whole lot worse things out there on the supermarket shelves, refrigerated cases & freezers.

                                                Grass finished beef costs double or even triple cafo and a significant portion of it requires Hyena jaws & teeth to chew not to mention the sour taste from the wrong genetics & pasture grasses.

                                                A great read on Chow was from a small rancher who came right out and stated it took him 10 years to put out an "acceptable" grass finished product and he still has a long way to go. Not nearly as easy as all the internet educated grass finished guru's would have people believe.

                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                  we have a local organic/grass-fed dairy whose family has been selling milk, cream etc that way over 100 years. one of the sons recently started raising beef cows and pastured pigs. very small scale. the beef is grain-finished and although the pigs do forage, i know they receive supplemental feed. however, no hormones, no antibiotics, no cages, no cruelty and a local farmer.

                                                  his stuff is very reasonably-priced, delicious and i trust him implicitly. we are in the process of negotiating for "off-cuts" in his next slaughter too.

                                                  we're lucky to have him and i am happy to support his endeavor.

                                                  i doubt many on here are unaware of cafo conditions and the questionable quality of the meats. we all do the best we can. being preachy and/or pedantic doesn't do much to forward the conversation.


                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    Sorry if I came off preachy / pedantic.....not my intent......I am a long way from mastering key board communication ;- )

                                                    Your lucky to have a local farmer who treats his animals better than mass production, has a customer base to support his operation & is reasonably priced.

                                                    Unfortunately, most people are not so lucky. Starting to see some non feedlot meat products in the supermarket but much pricier & out purchased 50:1 by the commodity beef. Whole Foods has it but not even close to the price point to feed the average family.

                                                    Cafo has problems, no doubt about it. Some of the problems can be mitigated at a reasonable cost. Others are a consequence of extremely high production and are much more difficult to mitigate. Some problems go unreported, other problems are blown way out of proportion.

                                                    One thing is for certain, food is big business. People sacrifice to save money to invest in companies with the sole intent to maximize their return. No different than a shopper taking advantage of sales, coupons & all kinds of other promotions to maximize the purchasing power of their money. Cafo is an inevitable product of these forces in a society that is accustomed to good returns on their investments and cheap consumer prices. Look no further than Gasoline.

                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                      you were in no way preachy or pedantic. :)

                                              2. re: Puffin3

                                                "... their cells are holding literally as much water as they can. " - Cells don't get a significant higher water level based on the amount water you (or any cow or animal) drink.

                                                1. re: honkman

                                                  ooh, don't let basic biology get in the way of a good rant. ;)

                                            2. re: katgroch

                                              A one time investment in a good electric grinder. Extremely easy, fast & safe. You can blend different cuts, add Bison, Venison, partly cooked bacon or pretty much what ever you like. A lot of people I know swear by adding a little Venison which is usually free if you know a hunter.

                                              Also grind your own chicken, turkey, pork ......!

                                            3. It has a lot to do with the breed of beef cattle. Years ago Hereford and Charolais or a crossbreed of the two was used for grocery store beef. Now Black Angus is all the rage. I don't think it tastes as good.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Meatcuttersdaughter

                                                Food for thought! There is someone locally breeding Charolais, so maybe there will be an upscale comeback.

                                                1. re: Meatcuttersdaughter

                                                  I used to buy Certified Hereford Beef sub primals at Restaurant Depot but they stopped stocking it a good 10 years ago. Little less marbling but definitely stronger beef flavor. With 28 days age they were very tender. A private butcher should be able to bring it in at a reasonable price.

                                                2. I won't comment on ground beef one way or the other -- this thread pretty much devolved into a long discussion of that. But I will say this, as someone who is now well into retirement: The sense of taste (actually it's smell, but I digress), like the other senses, definitely declines over the years. I am satisfied that most of the time when people talk about how this or that food has been debased and doesn't taste like it used to, some/most of that observation stems from a decline in the acuity of the individual's taste, not (necessarily) any change in what is being tasted. Sorry, but we all must face it -- our bodies and everything about them do go downhill as the years go by.

                                                  So it may be both, but we really can't know because nobody goes uphill, and everybody goes downhill, so there's no way to do a comparison and be certain. One can truly say, "that's life."

                                                  1. RE: Johnb

                                                    Nice argument John about aging taste buds being the case, but honestly...I don't ever remember my grandmother saying "this beef/meat doesn't taste like it used to". In fact, I've never heard anyone say that , of any age until the last few years. Now, even my 37 year old son says it.