Search Results for: ground beef

There is No Horse Meat in Ground Beef

In some countries around the world, horse meat may be considered a delicacy. If you are concerned that horse meat may be in your meat, rest assured there is no horse meat in your beef.

In the United States, strict oversight and labeling laws ensure all ground beef sold is 100% beef. With a number of safeguards in place, the ground beef you know and love, does not contain meat from other animals.

A food safety expert discusses beef safety and quality in a processing plant

All U.S. beef is inspected and complies with labeling laws

Inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) must be present at each federally-inspected plant throughout the country to ensure proper food safety and strict labeling requirements.

Additionally, countries that export beef to the U.S. are required to follow equivalent meat inspection programs and comply with labeling laws and it is illegal to import horse meat into the U.S. for human consumption. All of these policies are in place to ensure a safe beef supply. The Food Safety and Inspection Service has even enhanced safeguards by species testing meats to prevent fraudulently labeled products from entering the country.

You can be confident that strict oversight and labeling laws prevent any other type of meat from entering the beef supply. The bottom line is, your beef is 100% beef!

Pink slime in ground beef? Not so. It’s 100% USDA inspected beef.

Inaccurately-termed pink slime in ground beef is lean finely textured beef. It looks no different than 90% lean/10% fat ground beef.

Myth: Pink slime in ground beef isn’t real meat

Reports have inaccurately used the term pink slime in ground beef, for what is accurately known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB) or finely textured beef (FTB). These reports also claim it is not real beef, but rather filler made from scraps from the slaughterhouse floor that contain ammonia. Get the real story behind lean finely textured beef.

The Facts: Pink slime in ground beef is a misnomer…get the facts on LFTB [Read more…]

The Beef Lifecycle Begins on the Cow-Calf Operation

The entire beef community works every day to produce high-quality beef for Americans. So, where does it all begin? The beef lifecycle begins on a cow-calf operation; where farmers and ranchers maintain a herd of mama cows for breeding.

First, cows (mature female cattle) and bulls (intact adult male cattle) are bred to produce calves. During the 9-month gestation period, farmers and ranchers play close attention to mama cows to make sure there are no problems with the pregnancy.

If any issues arise, a farmer, rancher or veterinarian can step in to ensure the health and safety of the mama and baby.

Farmers and ranchers are there every step of the way

Cows receive assistance from farmers and ranchers, and often times a veterinarian, during the birthing process, which is also known as calving. When a calf is born, it weighs between 60-100 pounds depending on its parent’s genetics and how well the mama cow’s body performed nutritionally during gestation. A newborn calf will spend the first few months of life drinking its mother’s milk and grazing on vast grass pastures. Today, cattle are born and raised in almost every state around the country on farms and ranches such as Debbie Lyons-Blythe’s ranch in Kansas or in South Dakota at Jake and Carolyn Geis’ ranch.

This calf is being branded for identification and herd management. Photo courtesy Jennie Hodgen

This calf is being branded for identification and herd management. Photo courtesy Jennie Hodgen

Animal safety is a priority

It is important for farmers and ranchers to be able to identify their cattle for the safety and security of their herd. Some cattle farmers and ranchers may use ear tags, which identify the animal with a number tagged in their ear (sort of like an earring). Before beginning the weaning process, other calves may receive a custom brand either by hot iron or freeze branding, so they are easily identifiable from a distance. The branding process does not cause long-term harm or pain to cattle, and it prevents them from getting lost or stolen. Additionally, some ranchers in western states are required by law to brand their cattle.

Before four months of age, the testicles are often removed from male calves being raised for beef through a process called castration. Castration occurs because bulls display more aggressive behavior and can cause harm to other animals or farmers and ranchers, so removing the testicles improves overall safety for the animal and for the animal caretakers. Removal is quick, low-stress and the calf begins the healing process immediately.

Cattle with horns can cause injury to other cattle they encounter throughout their lifetime. For this reason, horns are removed from calves in a process called dehorning. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that cattle be dehorned at the earliest age possible.

For these procedures and more, education and tools are provided to cattle farmers and ranchers to ensure proper cattle care. Introduced in 1987, the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was developed to ensure proper cattle care through every stage of the beef lifecycle.

The lifecycle continues

At 6-10 months of age, and approximately 500 pounds, calves are ready to begin weaning. Weaning is the process by which calves are moved away from their mothers in order to graze on grass pastures, where they eat grass and forages that are indigestible to humans. The weaning process allows calves to become independent of their mother’s milk so they may continue to grow and thrive on the pasture.

After weaning is complete, the beef lifecycle continues. Many calves are purchased at livestock auction markets by farmers and ranchers called stockers and backgrounders. However, some calves (about one in three female calves) are kept on the cow-calf operation as breeding animals or “mama cows to-be,” and the lifecycle begins again.

In every stage of the beef lifecycle , farmers and ranchers are dedicated to the health and safety of their animals at the cow-calf operation. Cow-calf operations are just the beginning of how the beef community comes together to bring beef from farm to fork.

Think Beef Doesn’t Fit on Your Plate? Think Again.

A fresh salad topped with lean beef

Greek Steak Chopped Salad

Myth: Beef doesn’t have a place on my plate as part of a healthy diet.

Fact: Beef still has a place on your plate, and you can feel confident that there are a variety of ways to include beef on your plate as part of a healthy diet.

Leading experts agree that when it comes to a healthy diet, one size does not fit all.  In fact, some of the nation’s foremost health and nutrition experts including Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, a leading researcher in cardiovascular nutrition, and Dr. Brian Wansink, former executive director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Washington D.C. who led the development of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recently reviewed some of the most popular diets and rated them as part of the annual U.S. News and World Report Best Diets 2015. According to these, and many other experts, there are some primary characteristics to consider when choosing your individual diet and lifestyle:

  • how easy the diet is to follow and commit to long term
  • the ability to produce short, and long-term results
  • the nutritional completeness, such as the right mixture of fat, carbs and protein that are necessary
  • the potential for helping prevent and manage long-term illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease

While scientists and nutrition experts continue to debate the elusive “perfect diet,” research continues to reinforce the basic principles we’ve known for a long time – there is a flexible range of fat, carbs and protein that people can eat to get the nutrients they need to enjoy good health.

Luckily, some of the most popular, easy-to-follow and nutritious diets DO have one thing in common—they ALL can include lean beef.

Recognizing that everyone is a little different, here’s the breakdown of some of the most popular healthy diets so you can decide what works best for you:

Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet – Aimed at preventing and reducing high blood pressure (hypertension), the DASH diet is often referred to as a “gold standard” diet because it’s been as effective as medications in reducing the risk of major chronic diseases and includes a healthy mix of foods, including lean protein and lean meat.

  • Brief overview and highlights:  
    • The DASH diet includes a healthy variety of foods, including lean protein and lean meat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat and non-fat dairy, nuts, beans and seeds.
    • Given that the DASH diet doesn’t allow for very much salt, sugar or refined foods, some people report having a hard time adhering to it.
    • The DASH diet is also considered a low-fat diet, meaning that you’ll have to keep track of the amount of fat you eat each day as part of this diet.
  • Looking to beef up your plate?
    • For those looking for more flavorful options full of natural umami, there is good news. The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study, which was based on the DASH diet and published by Dr. Kris-Etherton, found that including lean beef in an overall healthy diet, even daily, is as effective in reducing your total and bad cholesterol levels as the more commonly accepted DASH diet. So, for you beef lovers out there, you can beef up your DASH diet, while also lowering your cholesterol and eating healthy.
    • Interested in trying out BOLD? Learn more about the BOLD diet and even get a sample menu.

Mediterranean Diets – You may have heard the phrase “plant-based diet” or “Mediterranean diet” and wondered what these really mean. You’re not alone. In fact, there is no single set of criteria for what defines a plant-based or Mediterranean diet. The American Heart Association points out that since there are at least 16 countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, diets may vary between these countries.

  • Brief overview and highlights:
    • In general, Mediterranean diets can be described as an eating pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and grains (often whole grains), with small amounts of meat and full-fat milk and milk products.
    • The DASH diet is often known as being a “plant-based” diet. Unlike the DASH diet, which is moderate in fat and low in saturated fat, Mediterranean diets are more liberal in fat content, meaning higher amounts of certain fats are a good thing for this dietary pattern.
    • More than half the fat calories in a Mediterranean diet come from monounsaturated fats. More than half of beef’s fatty acids are monounsaturated (good) fat – the same kind found in olive oil and avocados.
    • Be careful of which “plant-based” proteins you eat—most Americans are already consuming a plant-based diet. On average, more than 60 percent of our daily calories already come from plants, such as refined grains. A plant-based diet requires eating more calories to get the protein our bodies need.  Be sure to consider total calorie consumption if you’re following a plant-based diet.
  • Looking to beef up your plate?
    • Good news for you—if you’ve travelled abroad, you’ve probably seen lean meat on the plates in many Mediterranean countries. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviewed research showing that most Mediterranean Diets do, in fact, include common intakes of red and processed meats.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the average intake of meat for each of these dietary patterns were as follows:
      • DASH diet – 1.4 oz. red meat daily
      • USDA Food Pattern – 1.8 oz. red meat daily
      • Mediterranean Patterns – 3.5-3.6 oz. all meat, including red meat, daily
      • Typical U.S. Adult Intake – 2.5 oz. red meat daily
    • Beef is the perfect partner to fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
    • Looking to take a mental trip to the Mediterranean? Check out this Mediterranean Beef and Salad Pita recipe or get ideas of ways to transform traditional meals into nutrient-packed meals with beef.

High protein and lower carbohydrates diets – There is no doubt that protein is a “hot topic” nutrient. As people look for ways to add more of this powerhouse nutrient to their diet, the popularity of eating plans such as Paleo, Atkins or other higher protein diets continue to grow. An increasing body of evidence suggests that protein plays an important role in weight management by increasing satiety (staying full longer), helping support strong, lean bodies and reducing the risk of chronic disease

  • Brief Overview and Highlights:
    • A number of research studies including a new study published online in the peer-reviewed publication Nature, suggest that higher protein diets not only help with satiety but may help with long-term weight loss. Subjects in this study who consumed 5.4 percent more energy from protein compared to the control/non-protein group were not only able to lose weight, but also kept it off for six months compared to the control/non-protein group.
    • Another study published in the journal, OpenHeart, suggests that a healthy, balanced diet including high-quality proteins such as beef may be more effective than a diet that restricts fat below 30 percent of daily calories.
  • Looking to Beef Up Your Plate?
    • Consuming protein throughout the day (rather than at one meal)—may benefit your overall health and well-being. In fact, evidence shows that it’s important to consume protein throughout the day (at all meals and snacks) to meet your needs, improve satiety and preserve lean muscle mass.
    • Research also suggests that eating protein consistently throughout the day helps protect against muscle loss while you’re dieting.
    • Space out your protein throughout the day. Try a beef and egg wrap for breakfast or a salad with lean ground beef for lunch. A lean cut, such as strip steak, can provide for a delicious dinner. Check out this infographic or these tips to try to space protein throughout your day.

At the end of the day, there are a variety of ways to build your plate to fit your individual diet and lifestyle needs. Rather than taking a one-size fits all approach to your diet, talk with a registered dietitian about your individual lifestyle and nutrition needs, and how beef can be part of your plate.

Top Ten Questions & Answers about Beef in a Healthy Diet

We all know beef tastes great, but did you know that beef can be good for you too? Here are some answers to your most pressing questions when it comes to beef and your health.

Q: Can I enjoy beef regularly as part of a healthy, balanced diet?

A: Absolutely! A 3-ounce serving of beef—about the size of an iPhone or deck of cards—provides more than 10 essential nutrients and about half of your Daily Value for protein in around 170 calories, on average (and 150 calories for a serving of lean beef).

CutsQ: What does lean beef mean?

A: The definition of lean, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, means:

  • Less than 10 g total fat
  • Less than or equal to 4.5 g saturated fat
  • Less than 95 mg cholesterol per 100 grams (3.5 oz)

Q: Is it difficult to find lean cuts of beef at the store?

A: No. Today’s beef is leaner than ever, and 67 percent of all beef muscle cuts sold at grocery stores are lean. In fact, many of Americans’ favorite cuts such as Top Sirloin, Tenderloin (Filet Mignon), Top Loin (Strip) steak and 93 percent lean or leaner Ground Beef are lean.

Q: How much beef should I eat at a meal to meet my daily protein requirements?

A: Protein needs vary, but research suggests that people may need anywhere from 25-35 grams of protein (the equivalent of 3-4 ounces of beef) per meal. To find out your individual protein needs, check out this handy protein calculator.

Q: Aren’t we eating too much meat and beef?

A: Despite other changes in the way we eat, Americans have not increased their percentage of calories from protein in 30 years. Americans consume about 5.1 ounces of protein foods daily which includes 1.7 ounces of beef daily, on average.  This level of protein intake and beef consumption is right on track with health recommendations. The fact is, beef is a natural source of essential nutrients, which makes it a great protein option that you can enjoy any day.

Q: What nutritional benefits does beef offer me that other proteins don’t?

A: Beef is a nutrition powerhouse in many ways. Aside from being a great source of protein, beef provides essential nutrients in a smaller package than some other proteins. For example, you would have to eat at least 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast to get the same amount of iron as 3 ounces of beef, and nearly 7 times (20 ounces) the amount of chicken to get the same amount of zinc as in a serving of beef.

ProteinComparisonQ: Are all proteins created equal?

A: No. When it comes to choosing high-quality proteins, beef is a nutritious choice with an unbeatable taste. Naturally nutrient-rich lean beef gives you more essential nutrients (10 to be exact!) in fewer calories than many other plant-based proteins. That’s a lot of nutrients in such a small package! In fact, it often takes more than twice the calories to get 25 grams of protein from beans, nuts and grains compared to beef. Check out the chart below.

Q: Is beef bad for my heart and my cholesterol?

A: Beef can be good for heart health, as 8 extra-lean beef cuts are certified as heart-healthy by the American Heart Association. Research also shows that a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle that included lean beef, even daily, improved cholesterol levels. In addition, a recently published meta-analysis of eight randomized controlled trials (the gold standard research method) compared cholesterol-lowering effects of a diet including beef versus poultry and fish and found the diets improved cholesterol similarly.  In other words, there’s no reason to give up beef when watching your cholesterol as long as your diet is healthful.

Q: Isn’t beef the primary source of fat and cholesterol in my diet?

A: No.  Most saturated fat in the diet comes from regular cheese, pizza and grain-based desserts, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  Beef contributes only 10 percent or less of the saturated fat and total fat in the diet, yet provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential nutrients. Also, more than half of beef’s fatty acids are monounsaturated (good) fat – the same kind found in olive oil and avocados.

Q: Do nutrition experts recommend beef as part of a healthy diet?

A: Yes, many of them do. For example:

  • Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State University and a leading authority on food, nutrition and cardiovascular research, recently completed a study showing that a heart-healthy diet that included lean beef daily can lower blood pressure. Dr. Kris-Etherton said, “This study shows that nutrient-rich lean beef can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet that reduces blood pressure, which can help lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.”
  • Dr. Mike Roussell, author, speaker, nutrition consultant and former student of Dr. Etherton’s at Penn-State University, set out five years ago to answer the question, “does lean beef have a place in the DASH diet?” According to Dr. Mike, “Today that research is being published, and after weighing, measuring, and feeding 36 different people everything they put in their mouths for almost 6 months, we have a solid answer to that question. Yes. Lean beef can be included in a DASH diet.” The DASH diet is typically held up as the gold-standard diet.
  • Dr. Douglas Paddon-Jones, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston recently completed a study suggesting high-quality protein, such as beef, should be spread throughout the day. “This research suggests… we need a moderate amount of high-quality protein, three times a day and we think about 30 grams of protein is the maximal amount…so instead of end-loading all protein toward the dinner meal…” says Dr. Paddon-Jones in a video explaining his ongoing research.
  • Similarly, Heather Leidy, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, recently was the first researcher to examine the impact of breakfast consumption on daily appetite and evening snacking. Her research found that subjects who consumed a high-protein breakfast consisting of eggs and lean beef increased fullness or “satiety” along with reductions in brain activity that is responsible for controlling food cravings. The high-protein breakfast also reduced evening snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods compared to when breakfast was skipped or when a ready-to-eat cereal breakfast was consumed, Leidy said.

Have more questions about how lean beef fits into your healthy diet? Watch the video or ask us a question at @BeefRD.

Ten Tips for Safely Handling and Preparing Raw Beef

Myth: There are too many risks associated with handling raw beef and defrosting beef for it to be at the center of the plate at meal time.

The Facts: Actually, there are many tips that consumers can implement into their beef purchasing and preparation routines which contribute to a safe, enjoyable beef-eating experience.

Tip 1- Purchase beef that is cold to the touch, with no holes or tears and choose packages without excessive liquid. Make beef your last purchase at the grocery store and place it at the bottom of your cart in a plastic bag to prevent possible cross-contamination.

Tip #2- If it will take more than 30 minutes to get home, keep an insulated cooler in the car to keep beef and other perishables cold until it reaches your fridge.  Be sure to grocery shop last on your list of errands!

Tip #3- Properly store raw beef in the fridge or freezer.  Keep raw beef cold until time of preparation. Your fridge temp should be 40˚F or less.  Try to use fresh beef within two days; otherwise freeze until needed. You can freeze beef in its original packaging up to two weeks. For longer storage, wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil or in plastic freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.

Tip #4- If frozen, defrost beef in refrigerator (allow at least a day by placing frozen package on a plate or tray to catch any juices), microwave oven, as part of cooking, or under cold running water. Never thaw or defrost beef at room temperature.

Follow these simple steps to thaw ground beef

Follow these simple steps to thaw ground beef

Tip #5- Prepare beef on a clean work surface. Use separate knives, cutting boards and cook ware for cooked beef and raw beef to avoid potential cross- contamination. Wash your hands, knives, cutting boards and cook ware in hot soapy water after each use. Cutting boards can be sanitized with a bleach solution (2 tsp of concentrated chlorine bleach in one gallon of water).

Tip #6- Use plastic cutting boards for cutting all raw beef products because wood grains can harbor bacteria and are harder to keep clean.

Tip #7- Wash your hands before and after handling raw beef with soap and warm water (lather for at least 10 seconds or sing “happy birthday”).

Tip #8- To enjoy safe and savory ground beef, remember to use a thermometer as color won’t always indicate doneness.

Tip #9- Cook ground beef to a minimum of 160˚F, using an instant read meat thermometer. For ground beef patties, insert the thermometer into the center of the patty. Steaks and roasts should be cooked to at least an internal temperature of 145˚F, using an instant read meat thermometer and let rest for three minutes before serving.

Tip #10-Be sure to wrap or store leftovers in airtight containers promptly after serving (within two hours after cooking). Keep refrigerated and use within three days.

For more information on purchasing and cooking beef or how to defrost beef, visit Beef ItsWhatsForDinner.com or the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) food safety fact sheets.

The Beef Lifecycle: From Farm to Fork

The beef lifecycle is perhaps one of the most unique and complex lifecycles of any food. It takes anywhere from 2-3 years to bring beef from farm to fork. The beef community is not vertically integrated, meaning that an animal will change owners or caretakers an average of 2-3 times during its lifetime. Each caretaker along the way specializes in a key area of a cow’s life, providing the proper care, nutrition and animal health plans that the animal needs at that specific point in its life.

The farmers and ranchers at each stage of the beef lifecycle utilize diverse resources available in their geographic area, such as local feedstuffs, land that can’t be used to raise crops, or grass that might grow all year around. The entire beef community focuses on proper animal care, such as Beef Quality Assurance, in order to raise high-quality beef for millions of people around the world to enjoy.

In short, it takes abroad community of dedicated people working together to bring beef from farm to fork. The beef community is made up of cow-calf ranches, stockers & backgrounders, livestock auction markets, feedyards (feedlots) and packing plants  See the beef lifecycle infographic below for a visual snapshot of how beef goes from farm to fork.

Below is a brief overview of the beef lifecycle:

  1. Cow-Calf Farm or Ranch – Raising beef begins with ranchers who maintain a breeding herd of mama cows that give birth to calves once a year. When a calf is born, it weighs about 60 to 100 pounds. Over the next few months, each calf will live off its mother’s milk and graze on grass pastures.
  2. Weaning –Calves are weaned from their mother’s milk at about six to 10 months of age when they weigh between 450 and 700 pounds. These calves continue to graze on grass pastures. About 1/3 of the female cows will stay on the farm to continue to grow and to become new mama cows the following year.
  3. Stockers and Backgrounders – After weaning, cattle continue to grow and thrive by grazing on grass and pastures during the stocker and backgrounder phase.
  4. Livestock Auction Markets – After weaning and/or during the stocker and backgrounder phase, cattle are sold at livestock auction markets.
  5. Feedyard – Mature cattle are often moved to feedyards (also called feedlots). Here cattle typically spend four to six months, during which time they have constant access to water and room to move around. They are free to graze at feed bunks containing a carefully balanced diet made up of roughage (such as hay, grass and fiber), grain (such as corn, wheat and soybean meal) and local renewable feed sources, such as the tops of sugar beet plants, potato peelings or even citrus pulp. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal. Feedlots can range in size, shape and geographic location.
  6. Packing Plant – Once cattle reach market weight (typically 1,200 to 1,400 pounds and 18 to 22 months of age), they are sent to a packing plant (also called a processing facility). United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are stationed in all federally inspected packing plants and oversee the implementation of safety, animal welfare and quality standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to grocery stores and restaurants establishments. If animals are sick or have an injury the USDA inspector will deem the animal unfit for human consumption, and the animal will not enter the food supply.
  7. Food Service and Retail – Beef is shipped and sold in the United States and abroad. In the retail and food service (restaurant) channels, operators take steps to provide consumers with the safest, most wholesome and nutritious products possible. For delicious recipes for beef, including tips on cooking steak and making the perfect hamburger, visit beefitswhatfordinner.com.

It takes a dedicated community of people to bring beef from farm to fork, but the result is wholesome, delicious and high-quality beef that people can feel good about. Learn more about each segment of the beef lifecycle by clicking on the above links or by visiting farmer and rancher blogs, such as:

USDA Chief Economist: “Beef demand is strong; there is no question about that.”

Dr. Joseph Glauber, Chief Economist, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Dr. Joseph Glauber, Former Chief Economist, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff. The following is a transcript from a conversation on April 16, 2014 with Dr. Glauber about beef prices. NOTE: Dr. Glauber retired from the USDA at the end of 2014. 

Dr. Glauber, to begin, please tell us about the role of the Office of the Chief Economist within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The office of the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) advises the Secretary of Agriculture on economic data and programs affecting the U.S. food and fiber system. The office also provides publicly available information, such as commodity, farm sector and weather forecasts, to agricultural producers and consumers to make informed decisions. The USDA has had a Chief Economist since the 1920’s.

Often you hear beef consumption reported as an indicator of demand for beef, can you clarify the difference.

During periods of high beef prices, consumers tend to look for more value cuts of beef. For example, if steak prices are high relative to ground beef, shoppers will be more likely to purchase ground beef for their beef needs. Or consumers may switch to lower priced meats like pork or poultry though prices for meats typically follow one another. However, beef demand is strong; there is no question about that. Demand is strong in both the foreign and domestic markets. It is also important to note, when you look at published inflation numbers and beef prices, this data does not necessarily capture how the item’s being featured (sale prices and discounts) in grocery stores.

Lately it has been widely reported in the media that beef prices are the highest since 1986; is that true?

This data is based off of individual cuts of beef, not beef as a whole. Overall inflation and inflation of all food items has increased a lot since 1986; if you look at inflation in real terms, meaning adjusting for the purchase price of the dollar, it’s not a record. We are down from those price levels. In nominal terms, meaning no adjustment to the purchasing power of a dollar, you are seeing some cuts at record levels.

There is a lot of mention of the domestic cattle herd size, and the herd size being the lowest is has been in a significant number of years. When do you forecast cattle producers will begin to rebuild the nation’s cattle herd?

We have been expecting the herd to be rebuilt for a number of years now. But because of high feed costs and drought we have not seen the expansion that we might have thought possible given the high price of cattle. Typically when there are higher prices for cattle, the domestic herd expands. Expansion takes time. If you look at a poultry flock, they (poultry producers) can make adjustments pretty quickly. Hogs take a little more time, cattle take the most time. A calf can take two years or more to go to market.

If you look at production numbers, we did see some increase in the cow herd in the Upper Midwest and the Eastern Corn Belt area. However, most of the areas west of the Mississippi did see a decline. The concern is that 45% or more of the cattle inventory is currently in a drought area. Some of these areas have been under persistent drought for over four years. There is also feeder cattle from Canada and Mexico being imported, those additional cattle help with the supply as well.

We believe we will see positive signs toward herd size increase in 2015, but that means we will not see significant supply changes until 2016.

You mentioned drought as a cause of higher prices and a smaller cow herd, what does the drought actually mean for cattle producers?

Some cattle are being moved out of areas where we are seeing drought conditions. They are being moved to areas with better pasture conditions. Long-term drought does take a toll. It would help to have better pasture conditions in the highest cattle-producing regions of the country. We are now in the fourth year of consecutive drought, and there is certainly a concern that drought will take a further toll before we are done.

 We often get the question, will the nation run out of beef. Is that a possibility?

We are not going to run out of beef. We are seeing the results of tighter supply in the form of higher prices, not shortages.

For more information about the Office of the Chief Economist visit www.usda.gov/oce/.

Are Americans Eating Less Beef Because Of High Beef Prices?

**Updated: May 20, 2015**

Myth: The price of beef has made people eat less beef.

The Facts: Consumers are seeing higher food prices when shopping and dining out, but despite the increased cost of beef, all of the beef being produced in the U.S. is being purchased. Consumers are buying the entire inventory of delicious steaks, roasts and ground beef, even at higher prices.

This shows us that beef demand is high. What do we mean by that? Demand refers to consumer preference and desirability for a good, in this case beef. Demand is calculated by economists using a demand index which takes into account a consumers’ willingness to purchase a product based on its price and their income. In beef’s case, prices have gone up, while consumer incomes haven’t. Yet, consumers continue to purchase beef despite its higher price, which is an indicator of strong demand for beef. This is counterintuitive to what you typically see in demand. Consumers are usually willing to purchase less of a good as the price increases and more as price decreases.

To put it simply, demand is desire, and consumer desire for beef is high. In fact, demand has remained strong throughout the latest recession and one of the tightest beef supplies in history, increasing around seven percent in the past year.

Consumers are continuing to eat beef – 91 percent of consumers eat beef monthly and 35 percent eat beef three or more times a week – and the majority (84 percent) plan to consume even more beef, because they love the taste.  Almost 20 percent of consumers say they are eating more beef compared to a year ago. Two thirds say they’re eating about the same.[1]

Americans love beef, and sales show they believe it’s a high quality protein that’s worth it. In fact, a recent survey showed consumers were willing to pay $8.02 per pound for a steak, and only $5.59 for a chicken breast and $3.97 for a pork chop.[2]

Grilling season presents consumers the opportunity to cash in on their cravings. Almost half of consumers (46.3 percent) are looking forward to grilling beef this summer – more than double the desire to grill any other (including less expensive) protein options.[3]

For more information on demand, visit these resources:

Citations:
[1] Consumer Beef Index, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, March 2015
[2] Oklahoma State University’s Food Demand Survey, April 2015
[3] Consumer Google Survey, funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, May 9-11, 2015

Be Nice To Your Waistline By Keeping Lean Beef On Your Holiday Menu

Mary_Lee_ChinMary Lee Chin, MS, RD, Food and Nutrition Consultant in Denver, Colo.

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As a registered dietitian, I understand it can be difficult to be health and weight conscious during this hectic time when we juggle travel, party planning and gift buying along with our regular schedules. On top of that, we hear a lot of myths about how to be healthy, such as don’t eat this or that. My best advice to help avoid holiday weight gain is to be nice instead of naughty and build your meals on a foundation of healthful foods. A way to lighten holiday fare is to focus on serving nutrient-rich choices from these important food groups: lean meats, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lean beef, with its high concentration of essential amino acids delivers high quality protein content, and easily fits into your healthier holiday meal planning and entertaining.

Research continues to illustrate the critical role high-quality protein plays in optimal health: maintaining muscle, fueling activity, and managing weight. Animal sources such as lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy tend to have a higher percentage of essential amino acids than plant sources and are more well correlated to inducing fat loss. Protein-rich lean beef can help in preserving lean muscle mass which contributes to the burning of fat. Coupled with exercise, lean beef can help you build muscle strength while you work to lose or maintain weight this holiday season.

Holiday celebrations can too often mean fat and sugar loaded treats that are too high in calories and too low in nutrient content. Including lean beef can help balance the nutrition scales. Beef is a natural source of 10 essential nutrients, such as a readily available and easily absorbed source of iron and zinc. Iron is a part of all cells and many enzymes. It carries oxygen from lungs throughout the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. Zinc is vital for many biological functions, especially effecting our all-important immune system and physical and mental development. Beef also is an excellent source of B vitamins which help convert foods into energy to fuel your activity during these busy days. And its content of Vitamin B12 specifically promotes growth and helps maintain brain function.

Several studies show that protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may aid a reduction in overall calorie consumption.  Translate that into action by eating half of a lean roast beef sandwich on whole grain bread before you go out to the holiday buffet party. Blunting your appetite can help prevent your head first dive into the rich dips, creamy desserts and holiday cakes and cookies.

The American Psychological Association reports that half of women experience heightened stress during the holidays due to extra time spent on parties, cooking and shopping. Add in health and weight considerations and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s no wonder we are seeking healthier, and simpler, alternatives.

With beef, you have so many choices to lighten up your menu during the holidays, and simplify your cooking as well. Today there are 29 cuts of beef which meet government guidelines for leanness which includes many popular cuts. One tip: when shopping, make sure to look for lean sources of meat with the word “loin” in the name, such as sirloin or tenderloin. Loin cuts provide lean menu options for both everyday eating and holiday entertaining.

Before you face a busy day of mall shopping, place a bottom round roast with seasoning, winter root vegetables and red wine in a slow cooker. You’ll come home to an impossibly tender roast, and savory vegetables. Add some whole wheat rolls and you have a nutrient-rich, tasty—and easy meal after a tiring day.

Need appealing appetizers? Thinly slice sirloin and skewer with red and green peppers for color and crunch. Glaze with barbeque sauce, broil quickly and watch them disappear. Or make your mother’s famous meatball recipe with 95% lean ground beef. You’ll have great taste and the nutrition benefits of high quality beef.

Holiday happenings are special…and the food should be too. Whether you’re throwing a big bash or hosting an intimate evening, holiday entertaining for friends and family can present a challenge for serving spectacular, yet easy to prepare and healthier food and refreshment. Our family tradition is to carve a whole beef tenderloin for our holiday meal. It’s served with a sauce made from horseradish and low-fat yogurt, and rounded out with salad, roasted vegetables and whole grain rolls. It’s a spectacular entrée; indulgent, elegant and yet still very nutritious and low in calories. Since beef tenderloin is easy to prepare and cooks so quickly I spend more time with friends and family in the living room than isolated in the kitchen.

So is there room for dessert? Of course, satiated by good food, and good company, we always have a bit of room for the traditional family apple pie and chocolate cake. You should absolutely savor holiday treats; just keep portions within reason and treat them as,  well “treats,” not the focus of eating.

Include lean beef in your holidays and you’ll receive the benefits good taste, ease of preparation and nutritious eating, without sacrificing your waistline.

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