Today’s article is brought to you by a question asked by Mark from Mt. Crested Butte. First of all, I want to thank Mark; I really appreciate any and all questions and feedback I receive. Mark asked me to go more into detail around ground beef – so let’s dive right in!

The first thing to clarify is that no water, phosphates, extenders or binders can be added to ground beef or hamburger according to the standards set by the USDA. However, seasonings can legally be added. The second item to clarify is that there is a difference between ground beef and hamburger. Ground beef is made solely from either fresh or frozen beef from either primal cuts or trimmings. Ground beef must be made from muscle only, no skin, guts or anything else. Hamburger may have beef fat added into the product, but ground beef cannot. Both ground beef and hamburger cannot be comprised of more than 30% fat, (70% lean). Anything that contains more than 30% fat is illegal.

Ground beef can be even more specific. Ground beef can be made from specific cuts of meat. You might have seen ground sirloin, ground round, and ground chuck. This means that the ground is at least 50% from the specified cut – sirloin, round, etc.

As I said above, ground beef is made from primal cuts and trimmings. Ground beef is not made from leftovers or scraps off the floor. As we all know, not every cut makes a great steak, so often times tougher or less popular cuts will be ground into ground beef. Ground beef is also made from trimmings. Trimmings are simply the small pieces of meat, containing both lean and fat, that come from a beef carcass as the carcass is cut into primals, subprimals or individual cuts. In essence, ground beef enables us to use all possible muscle cuts of the animal most efficiently.

Finally, I am not a meat scientist and we are just barely even scraping the surface. If you want to know more, you can always call and chat with our local extension office at 970-641-1260 or come by in person. They can answer any questions more thoroughly than I could ever hope to! You can also go online to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website to learn more.

As you already know, there are a bunch of ways to utilize ground beef. It is one of the easiest and most versatile cuts to use. One of my favorite dishes that uses ground beef is Shepherd’s Pie. It is a good way to use up leftovers in the fridge as well. I normally cut up and onion and cook it until its soft, add a pound of ground beef. Once it is browned, I add chopped garlic and cook it until its fragrant. Then I normally add a cup or so of broth – last time I used bone broth I made from bones I got back from our processor. I then add any veggies I have: sometimes frozen, sometimes canned, sometimes fresh. As for spices, flavor with your heart – but I love the Roaring Fork Spice Company’s Dos Sabores and Rancher seasonings, and of course black pepper. After all of that cooks for awhile, I top with mashed potatoes. I use enough that it almost seals the top of the pie with mashed potatoes. I am lazy – so I just cook this right in the cast iron skillet that I browned the beef in. I cook it at 400 degrees for about 15-30 minutes or until the mashed potatoes start browning on the top.

As I said, ground beef is one of the most versatile beef products. The recipes are endless – simply type ground beef recipes into Google and you will be overwhelmed! Another great source for recipes with nutrition facts attached is the, “Beef It’s What’s for Dinner” website.