The Differences in Ground Beef

This weekend I was walking through the grocery store and stopped to browse the meat counter.  My family raises cattle, so growing up we were fortunate to be able to fill our freezer with home-raised beef.  I try to look at the meat counter whenever I get groceries to be aware of what products are offered, and how much they cost.

While perusing the beef section, a few packages of ground beef caught my eye.  There were three options of ground beef, all selling for a different price and appearing to be a different color.  Today, I would like to discuss the differences in fresh ground beef in terms of color and price.

Looking in the meat case, there were three options of fresh ground beef:

  • 93% XX-Lean Ground Beef ($5.08/lb)
  • 85% X-Lean Ground Beef ($4.08/lb)
  • 73% Regular Ground Beef ($2.98/lb)
Left to Right: 93% XX-Lean Ground Beef, 85% X-Lean Ground Beef, 73% Regular Ground Beef. The XX-Lean product is noticeably more red than the regular product due to the lean to fat ratio.

When I first saw the product, the first thing that stood out to me was the differences in color.  As you can see in the photo, there is quite a variation in redness between the XX-Lean Ground Beef, and the Regular Ground Beef.  This difference is due to the fat content.  The name of the product is describing the percent of lean (actual meat, not fat), within the product.  For example, the XX-Lean product was 93% lean meat, and 7% fat; while the Regular product was 73% lean meat, and 27% fat.  Being that lean beef is a bright, cherry red color, while fat is white, the different blend of meat/fat leads to color differences.

The second thing that stuck out to me was the difference in price.  $2.10/pound is quite the difference!  Driving the price is once again, the ratio of lean to fat.  Although fat has a lot of benefits in terms of flavor, juiciness, ease of cooking, etc., it is often seen as a waste product.  If you brown the ground beef, or make hamburger patties, a lot of that fat will cook off and be discarded.  Because of this, it is seen as a lower value product.  In the 1.25 lb package of Regular ground beef, there is approximately 1/3 lb of fat.  In the XX-Lean package, there is only about 0.08 lbs of fat, making it a higher value product.

Now, all three of these ground products are a good option to take home, depending on what fits into your budget and how you intend to use it.  No matter what blend you choose, remember that beef is an excellent source of protein and 9 other essential nutrients.  It’s a healthy option that will leave your family full and satisfied.

Graphic produced by the Beef Checkoff

If you come across anything interesting at the meat counter and have questions, please send them my way!  If I don’t know the answer, I’d love to do some digging to help find it!


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