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Exploring the Nutrition, Grades and Cuts of Beef in the Meat Case

January 15, 2020

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with staff of the New York Beef Council Jean O’Toole, executive director and Katherine Brosnan, Director of Producer Communications and Influencer Outreach.  The New York Beef Council both in person and via their website www.nybeef.org are an incredible resource.


On their website you can find graphics on all beef cuts available, the best ways to cook them and recipes as well.  There is information on beef nutrition, sustainability, the beef industry, and much more.  Their mission is “To enhance the lives of consumers by connecting them with beef”.


I went on a meat case tour of Tops Market in Fayetteville, NY with Jean, and was able to sit down afterwards to discuss all things beef.




Why Beef?


Beef is full of protein (3oz cooked beef provides on average, 25 grams of protein) and 10 essential nutrients including zinc, iron and B vitamins.  Beef is a valuable protein that can be used as a supplement to the diet of infants 6 months and up, as well as toddlers, teens, adults and seniors.



Many shoppers are confused and overwhelmed when navigating the meat case in local stores and even online.  Infographics in stores often help, but education is key as well.



Beef Basics


Ground Beef


Ground beef is versatile and readily available to pick up at your local grocery store or meat market.  There are three main grinds typically available to the consumer.  


70% Lean


70% Lean ground beef is typically used for burgers and in recipes calling for browning (crumbles) and pouring off drippings such as chili, tacos, and spaghetti sauce.  When properly cooked, it is moist and juicy


80-85% Lean


A mid-range lean-to-fat ratio is a nice option for dishes like meatloaf and meatballs where you’ll be forming a ball or leaf but you’ll be cooking in a pan, oven or skillet.  When properly cooked, it is moist and juicy and has a slightly firm texture.


93% Lean


Ground beef that is 93% lean or leaner meats government guidelines for “lean”.  It works well in dishes that require crumbles, like meat sauce, tacos, stuffed peppers or casseroles where fat draining might be difficult.


Recipe ideas with Ground Beef



Keeping Beef Safe


Beef Refrigerator Storage Times

        Steaks, Roasts                        3-4 days

        Beef cuts for recipes                2-3 days

        Ground Beef                        1-2 days

        Leftover cooked beef                3-4 days


Once home, immediately store beef in the meat compartment or coldest part of the refrigerator.  The coldest part of the refrigerator is at the back of an inside shelf, not inside the door.



Beef Freezer Storage Times

        Steaks, Roasts                        6-12 months

        Beef cut for recipes                6-12 months

        Ground Beef                         3-4 months

        Leftover cooked beef                1-3 months


-Immediately freeze beef that won’t be used within a few days

-Make sure the freezer is set at 0F or colder (optimal is -10F to -40F)

-To prevent freezer burn, repackage beef in heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic freezer bags, pressing out as much air as possible before sealing.


Beef Cuts


One of the biggest questions I receive from people is “where does this cut come from?”  The New York Beef Council has great infographics to help even the novice learn more about the meat they eat.  The graphic below even has designations for the best methods to cook each cut.  In future blog posts I will dive deeper into individual cuts as well has how to cook them.




Additional beef cut charts




Grading of Beef


Many people shopping the meat case are unaware of the various grades of beef, and why one might be more sought after and cost more than another cut, or grade of beef.  I know a number of people solely look for the lowest price with complete disregard for quality.  Now granted, some people might be on a strict budget, but when there is a great sale on a higher quality cut, I would like people to recognize that.


Beef Grading sets the standards for the various quality levels of beef.  The beef grading program uses highly trained specialists and sometimes grading instruments to determine the official quality grade.  Beef quality grading is voluntary and administered by the USDA and paid for by beef packers.


The grade is primarily determined by the degree of marbling or the small flecks of fat within the beef muscle.  Marbling provides flavor, tenderness and juiciness to beef and improves overall palatability.  Other grading factors include animal age, color, and texture of the meat.



Decoding the Labels


There are a wide variety of different labels on the beef we buy, and often we don’t know exactly what those labels represent.  These infographic charts from www.nybeef.org are incredibly helpful and all are charts are also available to download from their website as well.  Please note that these labels do not represent every label a consumer may see.  Each label must be approved by USDA through a formal submission and evaluation process.


For more details on beef choices, visit https://www.nybeef.org/raising-beef/choices-of-beef.





In a nutshell, there is information on just about any aspect of beef including how cattle is raised, nutrition, recipes, videos, education, classroom materials on their website.  Regardless of which state you live, the New York Beef Council is a valuable resource for both individuals in the industry and those of us at home just looking to educate ourselves more on the food we love to eat.


For recipes on cooking beef visit: https://www.nybeef.org/cooking


For information on raising beef visit: https://www.nybeef.org/raising-beef


For nutrition information: https://www.nybeef.org/nutrition 


And for my favorite part of the website: the infographic library!




For more information on other topics, visit www.nybeef.org

This post is sponsored by The New York Beef Council and many thanks to Jean O’Toole and Katherine Brosnan for their hospitality for various learning experiences I have been fortunate to attend.

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Content © 2017 Melissa Reome

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