When you look at any package of ground beef, you should see a ratio that ranges from 73/27 to 96/4. This number is called the lean point, and represents the lean-to-fat ratio of that particular grind. For example: if the lean point is listed at 73/27, there is 73 percent lean beef and 27 percent fat content in the package. While 73/27 has a higher fat content, other grinds can be as lean as 96/4, with only 4 percent fat content.
Today, most ground beef packages are labeled with % Lean % Fat statements. Lean points are calculated by dividing the fat grams per serving by the total grams per serving and multiplying by 100 to determine the percentage of fat. For example, ground beef with 22 grams of fat per serving and a total serving size of 112 grams is calculated as follows: 22 divided by 112, which equals .20, multiplied by 100, which equals 20. That means the ground beef has 20 percent fat and 80 percent lean beef.
To be called “lean,” ground beef must have a lean point of 92% lean/8% fat or higher. “Extra lean” ground beef must have a lean point of 96% lean/4% fat or higher.
Fat helps give ground beef a wonderful, buttery beef flavor. Generally, the higher the fat content in ground beef, the more juice it will deliver and flavor it will preserve. However, leaner grinds can deliver an equally desirable beefy flavor, depending on how they are used. So understanding what lean points are best for various applications can help you enjoy ground beef to the fullest without sacrificing your healthy diet.
Attributes: Exceptional flavor and juiciness · Helps bind meat together for patties or meatballs
Best in: Burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, Salisbury steak
Attributes: Delicious flavor and great texture · Ideal for use when beef is the king of the plate
Best in: Meatballs, leaner burgers, pizza topping, meatloaf, chili
Attributes: Great for use as an ingredient when cooking · Ideal for making your favorite meals leaner
Best in: Lasagna, chili, enchiladas, burritos, spaghetti, casseroles, tacos, sloppy joes
Attributes: Leanest grinds available · 96% lean grinds are given Heart-Check mark as a heart-healthy food · Primarily used as an ingredient in lean, healthy foods
Best in: Asian lettuce wraps, cabbage rolls, tacos, stuffed peppers, tostadas
Ground beef derived from a single area of the animal is known as a source grind. Ground sirloin, for example, is ground beef sourced from the sirloin area of the animal, and typically falls at the 90% lean/10% fat content. Other source grinds include ground round (typically 85% lean/15% fat) and ground chuck (typically 80% lean/20% fat). This graphic depicts the areas of the animal from which these source grinds are derived.
Choosing the right lean point is important when preparing healthy meals for your family. Just match the lean point to your menu, and you'll be eating more healthfully in no time!
Approximately 10 billion pounds of ground beef are consumed each year in North America.