How is Ground Beef Made?

Acabonac Farms |

Ground beef has a storied place in the hearts and kitchens around the world. Its versatility and deep-rooted place in culinary traditions have made it a beloved staple for everything, whether simple family meals or high-end haute cuisine.  

From Mom’s classic meatloaf to fancy bistro meatballs, and from Lebanese kofta to Indian keema aloo, yummy cheeseburgers to bar-style nachos, ground beef transcends cultural and culinary boundaries. Yet, not all ground beef is created equal.

At Acabonac Farms, we understand that the foundation of any great dish is the quality of its ingredients. That’s why we take immense pride in our commitment to sustainable farming and the exclusive use of grass-fed methods. This commitment begins in our pasture and carries through to processing and packaging, ensuring that every pound of our ethically sourced ground beef brings the very best flavor to your plate. 

how is ground beef made

What is Ground Beef?

Ground beef (commonly known as hamburger in the United States or beef mince in the UK) is finely chopped beef that is mechanically minced or ground. But, why is it so ubiquitous?

Approximately half of a cow's yield is turned into ground beef. The process of butchering cattle naturally results in a significant amount of meat that remains after the larger cuts have been separated—cuts that are too small or unsuitable for steaks or roasts. Some ground beef also includes offal like beef heart, liver, and kidneys for extra flavor and nutrition.

Given this abundant supply of trimmings, ground beef provides a practical way to ensure minimal waste. This abundance translates to a lower cost than whole cuts of meat, making it an economical choice for consumers who crave rich, beefy flavor but don’t have the budget for pricier cuts

When you’re shopping for ground beef, check the packaging for numbers in an X/Y format. Ground beef is categorized based on its fat content, which influences both its flavor and applications. The first number, “X,” constitutes the lean meat while the second number, “Y” denotes the fat content. Common ratios include:

  • 90/10 - While you can sometimes find 93/7 beef on grocery shelves, we think slightly fattier 90/10 is the better option. It’s a great choice for diet-conscious consumers, but remember: whenever you’re working with a lower fat content, you have to be extra vigilant to prevent it from drying out.
  • 80/20 - This is perhaps the most popular blend for ground beef, and is usually the choice for making classics like burgers and meatloaf. It’s also our favorite blend! The higher fat content yields juicier and more flavorful results without feeling greasy. 
  • 70/30 - This blend is ideal for creating robust dishes that benefit from a richer texture and moistness, often favored in heartier recipes like chilis and bolognese.

Each type of ground beef offers distinct advantages, depending on the desired outcome. This provides chefs and home cooks with flexible options to craft everything from a light, lean meat sauce to a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth burger.

Which Part of the Cow is Ground Beef?

Ground beef is a mosaic of various cuts, primarily sourced from the larger, tougher parts of the cow. These include areas near the chuck, round, and brisket, known for their dense muscle fiber and robustly savory flavor.  

In addition to these primary cuts, fat trimmings from butchering the animal are integral to ground beef’s makeup. These trimmings are carefully mixed with lean meats to achieve specific fat percentages, allowing customization to suit different cooking needs and preferences, balancing flavor, juiciness, and texture.

Acabonac Farms raises only pastured, grass-fed cows, which are not only leaner but also richer in key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. By doing so, we also ensure that each batch of ground beef maintains a consistent flavor profile representative of premium beef

Types of Ground Beef By Source

Ground beef can be categorized not only by fat content but also by the specific part of the cow from which the meat is sourced. Each type brings its unique characteristics to dishes, influenced by the texture and flavor of the original cut. Here’s a closer look at three popular varieties:

  • Ground Chuck: Derived from the shoulder and neck area, ground chuck is a favorite for its naturally rich flavor and fat content (usually around 80/20). This balance of fat makes it perfect for recipes where moisture and beefy taste are paramount, like Salisbury steak. Ground chuck holds its shape well during cooking, providing a satisfying, meaty texture.
  • Ground Round: Sourced from the tail end of the cow, this type of ground beef is leaner than ground chuck, typically ranging from 85/15 to 90/10 in fat content. Due to its lean nature, it's excellent for dishes that benefit from a firmer texture or are simmered in liquid, like taco fillings and Sloppy Joes
  • Ground Sirloin: Ground sirloin is considered one of the most premium types of ground beef due to its source—the mid-section of the cow, near the rear. It boasts a low fat content, generally around 7-10%, making it the leanest option available. Its fine texture and subtle flavor make it a preferred choice for health-conscious folks who don’t want to sacrifice flavor.

The Grinding Process That Goes into Making Ground Beef

The transformation of beef cuts into ground beef is a process that combines traditional butchery with modern technology. Throughout this process, Acabonac Farms employs state-of-the-art machinery to maintain the highest standards of food safety and quality. 

Our meticulous approach to the grinding process ensures that each package of our ground beef delivers exceptional flavor and texture while also adhering to our ethos of stewardship and sustainability. Here's an overview of how Acabonac Farms’ ground beef is made:

Step 1: Meat Selection. The journey begins with the selection of specific cuts of beef. These cuts are chosen based on the desired fat content and the flavor profile needed. 

Step 2: Trimming. Once selected, the beef is meticulously trimmed of excess fat, sinew, and other unwanted parts. 

Step 3: Cutting. The trimmed beef is then cut into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is necessary to ensure a smooth feed into the grinder without clogging. It also helps prevent uneven grinding.

Step 4: Chilling. Before grinding, the cut pieces are chilled to near-freezing temperatures, around 32-34°F (0-1°C). This step is vital as cold meat grinds more cleanly, ensuring that the fat and lean components are evenly distributed within the ground product. This facilitates a more uniform texture in the final product. 

PRO TIP: If you ever want to break down a larger cut into smaller pieces (e.g. for stews, kebabs, or tartare) try this method at home! Pop the meat into the freezer for approximately 15-20 minutes to help firm it up, then use your sharpest chef’s knife to cut it into your desired shape.

Step 5: Grinding. After chilling until firm, the beef is then fed into a meat grinder equipped with a rotating auger that forces the meat through a perforated plate. The size of these perforations can be adjusted to produce coarser or finer ground beef, depending on the intended use. At Acabonac Farms, we employ multiple grinding stages with progressively finer plates to achieve the perfect, exceptionally tender texture. It’s kind of like how pasta is made, rolling the dough through the machine in stages to achieve the ideal thickness.

Step 6: Mixing (Optional). If the final product requires a blend of different cuts (like in our Paleo mix) or the addition of fat or seasonings (like in our meatball mix), this is the point in the process where it happens. The ground beef is mixed thoroughly to ensure that the fat and flavors are evenly distributed throughout the batch for consistency.

Step 7: Packaging. Finally, the ground beef is carefully portioned, packaged, and labeled before heading to the flash freezer. The packaging is designed to maintain freshness and to provide clear information regarding the contents and nutrition. When you order ground beef (or any meat) from Acabonac Farms, it will arrive frozen. This is done intentionally to ensure you get the absolute freshest product — like you came and got it off the production line yourself. 

What to Avoid When Buying Ground Beef?

Purchasing ground beef should be straightforward, but the unfortunate reality of our food system is that there are not-so-ethical producers using sneaky tricks to make lower-quality meat look appetizing. As such, consumers should be on the lookout for several red flags:

  • Traceability: One of the most important (if not THE most important) factors when purchasing ground beef is the transparency of the sourcing and production process. Brands like Acabonac Farms provide clear information about how and where our cattle are raised and processed. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, “Product of the USA” doesn’t mean “Raised in the USA.”
  • Misleading Labels: Be wary of vague terms like “natural” or “humanely raised” which do not have a standardized definition and can be misleading. Even claims like “100% grass-fed” and “organic,” which have clear USDA standards and certifications, are designed to benefit industrial farmers running CAFOs. Your best bet is to buy from trusted local farms that you can visit in person. 
  • Avoid Artificial Additives: High-quality ground beef does not need artificial dyes or coloring to appear fresh. But many big meat processors use these additives to make it look fresher and more appetizing than the often gruesome reality of grain-fed industrial beef. Similarly, avoid ground beef that contains preservatives. 
  • Beware of Gas Packaging: Much commercially available ground beef is packaged using carbon dioxide or other gases to help preserve the meat and maintain a red color. While not harmful, this can sometimes mislead consumers about the freshness of the product and can also affect the flavor and texture of the final product. At Acabonac Farms we use simple, effective packaging and preservation techniques (i.e. freezing) that maintains freshness without altering the natural qualities of the beef.
  • Steer Clear of Fillers: Some industrial meat products may include fillers like breadcrumbs, soy protein, or TVP (textured vegetable protein). These are often added to bulk up the product—padding processors’ bottom lines at the expense of the consumer. Pure ground beef should list only beef (and maybe beef fat) on its ingredients label.
  • Excessive Fat Content: While some fat is desirable, excessively fatty ground beef can indicate a lower quality product. Look for ground beef with a clearly marked fat-to-lean ratio. 
  • Literal Transparency: As a general rule, if you can’t see the meat, the producer is probably trying to hide something. Make sure the container holding your ground beef is clear — you should see an even distribution of fat (evidenced by an even color pattern), an even grind, and no visible gristle, bone fragments, or cartilage. 
raw ground beef burgers

Tips for Cooking with Ground Beef

Whether you're cooking a family favorite or experimenting with new recipes, using these best practices will ensure whatever you’re making is both safe and delicious:

  • Proper Cooking Temperature: Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at the thickest part of whatever you’re making; it should hit an internal temperature of 165°F. Why? Bacteria hang out on the surface of larger cuts, so searing the outside is enough to kill them. However, when the beef gets ground up, all that bacteria gets evenly spread throughout the whole batch. In other words, don’t make rare burgers — save the temping for your steaks.
  • Safely Thawing Ground Beef: We’ve heard just about every method around for defrosting meat, but only some should be used.
    • The best way to thaw ground beef is in the refrigerator. This method keeps the meat cold as it thaws, preventing bacterial growth. 
    • While you can use a microwave, it isn’t recommended; doing so can cause uneven thawing and can cook the outside of the meat before the inside is defrosted. 
    • If the packaging is airtight, you can also use a bowl of cool water to quickly defrost your ground beef. Place the package in a large bowl in the sink, submerge it in cool water (never warm!), then check every 10 to 15 minutes. A pound of ground beef should thaw in less than an hour using this method. 
    • Never thaw meat at room temperature on the counter. Why? Doing so could potentially allow parts of the beef to reach a temperature above 40°F, which is considered the “danger zone” where bacteria can thrive.
  • Choosing the Right Fat Content: Use leaner grinds (like 90/10) for dishes where you want a firmer texture, such as meatloaves or tacos. These leaner grinds hold together well and are less prone to shrinking during cooking. For juicier, more flavorful preparations like burgers or meatballs, opt for higher fat grinds (like 80/20 or 70/30), which stay more moist during cooking.
  • Making Ground Beef Leaner: If you prefer a leaner meal but only have a higher-fat ground beef, cook the meat and drain off the fat before adding more ingredients to the pan. Note that this works best for recipes that call for smaller pieces of meat, like chili or taco meat, rather than larger pieces like meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers.
  • Browning Techniques: You know the delicious smell of meat cooking in a pan? That’s the Maillard reaction at work — a chemical process that occurs when proteins and sugars in food are exposed to heat, resulting in the development of complex, rich flavors and aromas. To ensure proper browning, heat the pan before adding the beef and use a large enough pan. You want to allow each piece to contact the surface and caramelize rather than steam. 
  • Proper Handling: Always handle raw meat with care to prevent bacterial cross-contamination. Use separate utensils and cutting boards for raw beef, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the meat. You can also take the extra step of sanitizing your sink and cooking implements by pouring boiling water over any parts exposed to the raw meat.
  • Use a Gentle Hand: If you’re adding seasoning or binders to the ground beef before cooking, try not to over-handle the meat. The more you fuss with it, the tougher it will become.
  • Season Enthusiastically: As with most savory dishes, proper salting is essential. Using wide-flaked kosher salt is a great way to ensure even seasoning without oversalting.
  • Resting Time: Just like steaks, allow ground beef dishes to rest for a few minutes after cooking. This resting period lets the juices redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring a moist and flavorful result.
grass-fed ground beef hamburger

Is Grass-Fed Ground Beef Better Than Regular Ground Beef?

In a word, YES! As we like to say, you are what you eat eats. Grass-fed beef is touted as a nutritional powerhouse, and for good reason. Beef fed on a natural diet of grass (as opposed to grains and other feed) contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health

It also has more antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E, and is a richer source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound that can help build muscle and reduce body fat. Furthermore, grass-fed beef has a lower overall fat content.

At Acabonac Farms, the benefits of grass-fed ground beef extend beyond its nutritional advantages. Our farm is committed to regenerative farming practices that prioritize the welfare of our animals, help to repair our topsoil, work to reverse the effects of climate change, and otherwise promote sustainability. So, when you buy from Acabonac Farms, you’re not just feeding your family — you’re helping the environment, too!

Where to Buy Grass-Fed Ground Beef Online

Acabonac Farms stands out as a premier online source for grass-fed ground beef, burgers, and even raw pet food. We raise our cattle on spacious, lush pastures where they graze freely on a natural diet without the use of antibiotics or hormones. In short, we have nothing in common with large-scale, feedlot-based beef production

Purchasing grass-fed beef from our online store is straightforward and convenient. Plus, we offer a wide range of ethically raised chicken, lamb, and pork products, all delivered directly to your door. And, when you buy from Acabonac Farms, you’re not just buying meat; you’re making a statement about the value you place on animal welfare and the health of our planet.

In an era where our food system is less transparent than ever, knowing where your ground beef comes from is crucial. Join us in building a healthier, tastier, more sustainable world, one burger at a time!

raw grass-fed ground beef

Frequently Asked Questions about Ground Beef

Is mincemeat the same as ground beef?

No, mincemeat and ground beef are not the same. Ground beef is simply beef that has been finely chopped or ground. It consists purely of meat, sometimes with added fat. Our friends across the pond call it “beef mince,” which probably explains the confusion.

Traditional British mincemeat, on the other hand, refers to a mixture containing chopped meat (often beef or venison), suet, fruits, spices, and sometimes alcohol. This mixture is traditionally used in mince pies, a popular Christmas dish in the UK. Many modern recipes for mincemeat don’t actually include meat, rather focus more on fruits, nuts, spices, and alcohol.

What kind of meat is ground beef?

Ground beef typically includes a mix of beef cuts, most commonly the chuck, round, and sirloin, as well as other beef trimmings that don’t make for good steaks or roasts. These cuts are chosen for their balance of meat and fat, which can vary to produce different fat content ratios in the final product.

Is ground beef and hamburger the same thing?

It depends on the context. Both ground beef and hamburger meat are interchangeable terms, but “hamburger” can also refer to the cooked ground beef patty beloved by Americans.

Is ground beef considered a processed meat?

Yes, but only in the same way that frozen fruits and vegetables are considered “minimally processed.” Making ground beef involves grinding or mincing whole cuts of beef without adding significant ingredients, chemicals, or preservatives. This basic mechanical processing alters the shape or size of the meat but doesn't fundamentally change its nutritional content or health properties.

Is ground beef the same as ground chuck?

While all ground chuck is ground beef, not all ground beef is ground chuck. Ground chuck specifically refers to ground beef that is sourced exclusively from the chuck portion of the cow, whereas ground beef can be made from any cut of beef and various trimmings from different parts of the cow.

Is grey ground beef bad?

Not necessarily. Freshly ground beef is usually a bright red on the outside because a protein known as myoglobin reacts with oxygen to form oxymyoglobin, which has a vivid red color. But on places where the oxygen doesn't reach, the meat may be a greyish color. This is perfectly normal. 

If ground beef is exposed to the air for several hours, the surface color can change to a more greyish tone. This does not mean the meat has spoiled, but rather that it is oxidizing. 

Spoiled ground beef has a pungent, sour smell and a slimy texture. If ground beef exhibits these characteristics, it should be discarded regardless of whether it’s red or grey. To prevent spoilage, store ground beef in the refrigerator or freezer and use it within recommended time frames. Refrigerated ground beef should be cooked or frozen within 1-2 days of purchase. Finally, always ensure it's cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F to eliminate any harmful bacteria.

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