The Real Reason You Should Steer Clear Of Prepackaged Ground Beef

Ground beef is a staple in both our fridges and freezers. Whipping up a comforting bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese or throwing burgers on the grill becomes a cinch when you already have the main ingredient prepackaged for you. The effortlessness and variation this type of beef has to offer may be why we're buying so much of it. In 2020, the sales of this popular protein shot north of more than $1 billion more than it had sold within the same period as the previous year (via Drovers). Ground beef's popularity may be on the rise. But next time you're reaching for a portion of prepackaged ground beef at your grocery store, we urge you to consider your health before putting it in your cart.

What exactly is ground beef? This versatile meat is most often a mix of steaks, roasts, and other beef cuts. In order for it to legally be called ground beef, the meat can't contain more than 30 percent fat (via Epicurious). The mixing of meats isn't our concern with prepackaged ground beef. It's the sheer amount of cows that may be involved in the process. Beef that is ground off-site and prepackaged to be shipped off to supermarkets can be the product of hundreds of cows' trimmings. This increases the chance of cross-contamination and purchasing meat that contains harmful bacteria that is can threaten your health (via Epicurious).

There is a safer option

James Beard Award-winning author and master butcher, Kari Underly, explains, "Because they're processed from all these different sources, there's a higher risk for contamination from E. coli" (via Epicurious).

Before you say goodbye to your Taco Tuesday ritual and your mom's infamous chili con carne recipe, know that there is a safer option. If your supermarket offers store-ground beef, then you're in luck. Not only are you buying a fresher and better-tasting product, but you're decreasing your risk for contacting E.coli or Salmonella. Store-ground beef is beef that's ground on-site at your local grocery store (via Taste of Home). Of course, there is still a risk of buying contaminated meat. But it is much smaller, as stores will normally use the trimmings of one to three cows and not hundreds.

Whether you decide to purchase pre-packaged or store-ground beef, the most important thing you can do for your health is to make sure the meat is fresh. Keep the package cold and avoid beef that has already turned brown or grey on the outside. Store-ground beef has a short shelf life of one to two days, so try and cook it the day you buy it or put it in the freezer (via Epicurious). You can continue to enjoy your favorite meals containing ground beef, just consider choosing the safest option of beef you can for the sake of your health, and everyone that is sitting around the table.