Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why Is Ground Beef More Expensive?

Photo: Culinary Arts
The price of beef has gone up. The reason: Last year the midwest experienced a drought, so farmers reduced their herds of cattle and this created a beef shortage. 

Recently, I paid $4.99 (per pound) for ground round on sale! Not tenderloin, mind you, but the meat we use to make burgers! This got me wondering: How can a family stretch their beef budget? And ... what is the difference in all the types of ground beef on the market?

It turns out that some ground beef is made with the leftovers of other cuts of beef from the entire body of the cow. For ground beef to be called a specific type, such as chuck, round or sirloin, it can only come from that section of the animal. So here is what a consumer is buying:

Hamburger: Can have the trimmings from the entire cow. It can also have up to 30% of added fat. Personally, I never buy it. You have no idea what you are getting, nor do you know how many cows are used in one pound of meat.

Ground beef: Has the trimmings from the entire cow, but no extra fat can be added. The fat must come from the pieces of meat used, and it can have up to 30% fat. I don't buy this choice either.

Ground chuck: Chuck comes from the shoulder and neck sections of the cow. It is 15-20% fat. Many people like this cut to make juicy burgers and meatloaf. It is considered a flavorful cut of beef. Pieces of chuck, not ground, often get used in beef stew, or goulash, or stroganoff.

Ground round: Comes from the lean round and rump sections of the cow. It is 10-15% fat. This is a muscular section of the animal and some people consider it too dry to make burgers or meatloaf, but I prefer it. (I also use round and rump roasts ... or round pieces in beef stew. Lacking the marbling of fat, the meat is tough, but braising for a few hours will tenderize and turn it into a delicious meal. That's for a roast. Ground round isn't tough.) 

Ground sirloin: This meat comes from the sirloin section of the cow. It contains 8-10% fat and is the leanest and most expensive of the selections.

Although ground round and ground sirloin make a drier burger and meatloaf, I prefer its flavor to that of chuck, but like the white and dark meat of a chicken, it's a matter of individual taste. So decide for yourself. What's more, I can't tell much of a difference between ground round and ground sirloin, so I usually buy the one that goes on sale.

Now let's discuss how to stretch your beef budget. There are three easy ways:

1. Catch the supermaket sales. 

2. Buy larger quantities: Three pounds or more is often cheaper than lesser weights, then freeze the portions you don't use right away.

3. Use less beef in your recipes: 1) Combine a can of mashed kidney beans with two pounds of ground beef to make a meatloaf {along with a diced onion, red pepper and celery! I also add a cup of oatmeal and two eggs + spices}; 2) Mix rice with a pound of ground beef to make stuffed cabbage; 3) Combine fresh vegetables with ground beef to make hobo packets, etc. These are delicious dishes. You won't miss cutting down on the beef.

I have a hard time giving up red meat altogether, but it's actually a healthy diet to eat less of it and/or to combine it with other food groups.

I'm more mindful these days about how food gets on the table. Now I consider my carbon footprint on the planet, as well as, the cruelty to animals, so I find myself eating less meat in general. However, it's so tasty and filling that I haven't given it up entirely ... not yet! 

How about you?

You may also enjoy:
The Story Of Stuff
Happy Earth Day: Think Green
Waste Not Want Not Native American Style
9 Ways  To Save Money At The Supermarket


  1. Meat is very expensive here, Debra, despite the fact it is produced in Australia, and also exported. The price you paid would be quite normal here. I rarely eat red meat these days, and usually buy very small amounts for HB. However, my favourite salmon meal, is quite as expensive as good meat! Healthy eating can come at a price.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      As I wrote about the subject, I was hoping people for other parts of the world would let us know how costly meat was where they live. I think Europe too has always paid more for beef than here in the USA. I believe pork and chicken are more reasonable in Europe.

      Our beef has risen about $2 more per pound this year. I am eating smaller and smaller quantities lately just out of desire.

      I am sure that if I ever come to Australia, I'd leave 10 pounds heavier. You have some delicious food offerings, main dishes and fruits and vegetables; and of course, I would have to sample it all!