Grind your own meat by using an electric mixer with its special grinding tool or the tabletop versions. (Contributed)

“Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” —Sgt. Joe Friday, “Dragnet” series

Yesterday, my friend Tina left my house with her hands over both ears yelling, “Don’t tell me, I don’t wanna know!”

I had been grinding a chuck roast into hamburger meat when Tina came to visit, and I began telling her why I won’t buy pre-ground meat from a grocer’s market.

A few years ago, I wrote the story of the “love affair” between the fig tree and the fig wasp, and I remember a “reader” of this column wrote to me saying she probably will never eat another fresh or dried fig again. For that I am sorry, but the truth is the truth and I want to know what I am eating.

Whether it be fresh produce or meat from the market… I want to know how it is grown, and if it is meat, how is it prepared to be sold. My hubby Norm appreciated this, as it was one less thing for him to worry about.

Let’s begin with the facts and what is in that pound of ground meat you have just purchased for $7.99 a pound. The term “ground beef” is misleading. Pretty much any kind of beef can be ground and added: trimmings from sirloin, rib-eye, bottom-round, chuck and even cuts from the head of the cow. Yes, it is actually meat that comes from the head of the cow.

Your grocer purchases logs or tubes of head and chuck meat at a very low cost, perhaps $2.35/lb. This meat, along with any other scraps of meat the butcher has, will be ground together. FDA regulations require ground beef to contain 73% lean beef and 27% fat. Ground chuck must contain no less than 80% lean beef and no more than 20% fat. Ground round should contain 85% lean and 15% fat. More often than not, you are getting less quality.

Grinding “logs” are records that are mandatory to keep for each grind of meat by the person doing the grinding and for each different cut of meat going into the grind. Unless a specific specimen is sent to the testing facility, there is no way of knowing if these grinding “logs” are accurate. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY the FDA can accurately monitor every market that produces ground meats. This ruling is a joke!

Each meat market is required to have a fat content calculating machine, which is “seldom” used. It takes too long to test each grind, and for a busy market it would take up to three hours a day, and at a butcher’s salary… it just doesn’t happen.

Let’s talk about “freshness.” Each market cuts meat daily, and the trimmings that come from the different cuts of meat that don’t look good on a steak or roast, go into a 10-gallon square plastic container. Every market has leftover meat each day unless they opt to throw it away, which most don’t if they can get away with it. Most of these trimmings are only 40-50% lean meat, which when ground the next day, will produce a lower grade of ground beef. And many of the shadier markets will add pork trimmings to that grind as well.

What we know about the color “red” in meat. That red color is not blood, but the red color is the result of water being mixed with the proteins in the meat causing oxidation, turning from red to brown. The redness has nothing to do with the freshness of the meat. Odor is most often the indicator of freshness; if the meat smells sour, discard it. If you are not using your ground meat within 24 hours of purchase, freeze it, as it is the most perishable meat in the meat counter.

When meat is ground, it changes the oxidation state of the meat and it will turn brown. If the meat has been packed tightly, the outside meat may be brown with a red interior. Once again, it’s all about science.

In many cases, browning can be a sign of tenderness in roasts that have been aged. High-end restaurants make sure their prime rib roasts are well aged. 

I do not wish to deter you from eating ground meat from your market, but rather provide you with information you need to have before your reach for that beautifully red colored package of ground meat.

Better yet, do as I do, and grind your own meat by using an electric mixer with its special grinding tool or the tabletop versions… $75 to $30 will buy and provide you with the best solution and get you and your family on the way to safer and healthier hamburgers on the grill this summer.

As Sgt. Joe Friday said, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.”

Home-ground Hamburger Meat

(Makes 14-16 Quarter-pounders)

1 four-pound Chuck Roast

Place roast in freezer until it just begins to firm up.

Cut meat into 1-2in. pieces. Place back into freezer and when firm, sprinkle meat with mixture below.

Use the medium grinding blade for hamburgers. 

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Do not add salt to hamburger mixture.

Salt burgers before adding to grill.

Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].


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