Your Grocery Store's Meat-To-Fat Ratio Label Isn't Always What It Seems

ground beef on plate
ground beef on plate - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

Ground beef may seem simple at first glance, but it comes in various gradings -- here's what you should know before buying ground beef. If you've ever noticed a ratio on the package for ground beef, you're probably wondering what 80/20 means or 90/20. That's the ratio between ground beef and fat, with the fattier mixes of ground beef having a more even ratio. You'd probably think that these fat-to-meat ratios are a result of naturally butchering a cow. However, they aren't what they seem.

In an interview with the Kitchn, butcher Jen Prezioso explained that most ground beef ratios are a result of mixing trimmings with meat and grinding it together. This fatty mixture is used as a way for grocery chains to sell parts of the cow that customers may have otherwise avoided. Preizoso said, "A lot of people come into the shop asking for 80/20, but I don't put any extra fat in my fresh ground beef or chopped meat."

For a cut with natural fat, chuck roast is typically chosen and ground up. However, some butcher shops choose to separate their lean meat and fat trimmings into separate piles. They then combine them. This helps determine the ratio that you see on the package.

Read more: The 11 Best Frozen Burger Brands Available

How The Ratio Of Fat To Meat Is Decided

raw steak and hamburger meat
raw steak and hamburger meat - Shanekato/Getty Images

If you're wondering how much of your ground beef can be made of fat, then you should know that your hamburger meat shouldn't have more than 30% fat. According to the USDA, if your meat contains more than 30% fat then it's technically not considered ground beef anymore. It's a federal law that the meat cannot be sold under this classification. In stores, ground beef is typically sold in ratios of 80/20, 90/10 (considered lean beef), and 70/30.

The exact ratio of lean to fat is determined during the grinding process. On Reddit, a user who claims to have worked for a butcher, explained, "They would buy huge boxes of frozen beef and you would take out 80 pounds of that and then use your own 20 pounds of fat trimmings and then you combine the two in the grinding process to get your 80%." In an interview with CBS, a butcher explained that they made leaner ground beef from chuck roast. They wrote, "We cut those up and that gets us our lean ground beef."

Meat packers determine the exact ratio by testing the meat. They reserve certain portions of it to cook to determine the fat ratio. Heating these portions renders the fat, allowing testers to measure the amount.

Is Fattier Ground Beef Better?

hamburger patties
hamburger patties - Alle12/Getty Images

Ground sirloin is considered one of the leanest types of ground beef, but you may want to consider ground beef with a higher fat content. It really depends on what you're looking for in your ground beef. Generally, the 80 to 20 ratio is preferred for hamburger patties. You can use it in our best burger recipe. While it's true that leaner meat helps keep the patty together, a higher level of fat ultimately makes for a juicier, more flavorful burger. Ground sirloin may be a poor choice for burgers as the lean meat may make for a dried-out patty. However, it may be the perfect ingredient for dishes like chili.

If you want a bit more control over how much fat is in your ground beef, then you may opt to grind sirloin or chuck roast yourself. You can always add beef trimmings if you're using one of the leaner meat options. If you're buying your meat at the store, then consider asking an employee how their ground beef is sourced. Alternatively, for a fresher cut, consider going to your local butcher to see if they can make you a fresh mixture of ground beef.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.