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Calories in Ground Beef – Is Ground Beef a Healthy Choice?

Updated on June 14, 2015
Nutritional Facts of Ground Beef
Nutritional Facts of Ground Beef | Source

Introduction

Americans eat an amazing amount of ground beef each year. According to studies, we consume an average of 3 hamburgers each week. The mere fact that you seemingly cannot drive 20 miles in any direction without passing a fast food restaurant is proof enough. Even further, we use ground beef in many of the most common meal recipes such as meatloaf, chili, tacos, and sloppy joes. Yet, very few of us have explored the nutritional facts of ground beef. Is ground beef a healthy choice? The simple answer is “Yes”…if you know what to look for. Read on.

Different Cuts of Ground Beef

A cow is broken down into different cuts of meat. When you order a Top Sirloin or Tenderloin steak, these are the choicest and most delicious portions. (They also fetch the highest prices) Ground Beef generally comes from three areas of the cow - Sirloin, Round and Chuck.

  • Sirloin is the highest quality of meat. It will be more tender, contain less fat, and taste better. Average price: $4.00/lbs.
  • Round is second in terms of quality. It is more tender and contains less fat than Chuck. Average price: $3.25/lbs.
  • Chuck is the most common cut used for Ground Beef. The meat is tougher and contains more fat. Average price: $2.75/lbs.
  • Hamburger (fourth option) is Ground Beef from virtually any other section of the cow. In terms of taste, this will be the lowest quality of meat and contain the most fat. Average price: $2.00/lbs.

Nutritional Facts of Ground Beef
Nutritional Facts of Ground Beef | Source

Calories in Ground Beef – The Nutritional Facts of Ground Beef

The calorie count in Ground Beef is only part of the story. Beef contains many nutrients that are essential to our health such as protein, vitamin B12, niacin, iron, and zinc. In addition, all beef cuts are low in sodium. On the bad side, beef is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Consider the table below. In particular, notice the “Adjusted Health Cost”. If you calculate the price per pound in terms of the fat content, iron and calories, you may be surprised.

Beef Cut
Label
Calories
Fat
Sat Fat
Iron
Ave Cost
AHC
Top Sirloin
93/7
164
13%
18%
15%
$4.50/lbs
$2.80
Sirloin
90/10
196
16%
20%
15%
$4.00/lbs
$3.07
Round-Lean
85/15
218
20%
25%
14%
$3.50/lbs
$3.19
Round
80/20
231
23%
28%
13%
$3.25/lbs
$3.30
Chuck
75/25
235
24%
34%
11%
$2.75/lbs
$3.09
Hamburger
60/40
271
32%
50%
8%
$2.00/lbs
$3.21
*Nutritional data of Ground Beef retrieved from http://caloriecount.about.com **Average Cost obtained from survey of 6 stores in Metro Detroit area

Specialty Ground Beef Products – Are they healthier?

In the past few years, many specialty cuts of Ground Beef have appeared. They display titles such as “extra lean beef”, “grass fed beef”, “organic beef”, “premium choice cuts” and the wildly popular “Angus beef”. (How many of us ran out to McDonalds when they introduced the Angus burger?) In general, these specialty packages cost more money. Many of us buy these products thinking we are buying healthier beef. However, after extensively researching the nutritional value of Ground Beef, I discovered most of these packages fall into the Round category on the table above. Before purchasing these specialty packages, make sure they measure up in terms of fat, saturated fat and calories. Here is a list of some of the specialty packages:

  • Laura's Lean Beef 92/8 (AHC Calculation: $2.99)
  • Laura's Lean Sirloin 96/4 (AHC Calculation: $3.02)
  • Fit and Active Lean Beef (AHC Calculation: $3.35)
  • IMD All natural Lean Beef (AHC Calculation: $3.29)
  • Fresh Direct Organic Grass-fed Lean Beef (AHC Calculation: $3.11)
  • Century Farms Extra Lean Ground Beef (AHC Calculation: $2.95)
  • President Choice Extra Lean Angus Beef (AHC Calculation: $3.14)
  • Meat Loaf at Country Buffet (AHC Calculation: $3.90)
    **Added for a little perspective

Hidden Costs of Ground Beef

The explosion of beef consumption is leading to some significant environmental issues. No, we are not talking about the number of discarded McDonald wrappers or Burger King ketchup packets. We are talking about greenhouse gases, water usage issues, and unfriendly land usage policies. The environment impact of keeping up with beef demand is staggering and only appears to be getting worse.

Alternatives to Ground Beef

Of course, we have many alternatives when it comes to meat. Chicken, Pork, Turkey and Fish are all excellent choices. Each meat has distinctive advantages to ground beef. Chicken is much lower in fat and when cooked correctly is much more tender. Pork is high in thiamin but has more cholesterol. Turkey is lower in fat and very high in Iron and Vitamin B-6. Salmon is very high in protein and some exotic nutrients such as Vitamin K and selenium.

Meat Alternatives to Ground Beef

Meat Name
Calories
Fat
Sat Fat
Protein
Chor.
Chicken Breast
141
5%
4%
27.6g
25%
Chicken Thigh
107
8%
7%
13.8g
17%
Bacon
103
12%
13%
7.0g
7%
Pork Loin
147
8%
8%
23.1g
22%
Turkey Breast
140
6%
6%
26.2g
24%
Salmon
335
26%
15%
42.3g
45%
Tilapia
109
3%
4%
22.3g
16%
Veal Loin
364
22%
27%
54.7g
73%
Veal Shoulder
160
6%
6%
23.9g
41%
Lamb Loin
184
13%
15%
25.5g
27%
Lamb Shoulder
158
10%
11%
23.9g
26%
Deer Loin
81
2%
2%
16.3g
14%
Deer Ground
174
12%
19%
24.6g
30%
Bison Sirloin
145
7%
13%
23.8g
24%
** All numbers retrieved from caloriecount.about.com
Still the Best Alternative to Ground Beef
Still the Best Alternative to Ground Beef | Source

Chicken- The Best Alternative to Ground Beef

For many years, the standard alternative to ground beef has been chicken. The table above suggests a few well positioned choices such as Tilapia, Pork Loin or even Deer meat. When you look at everything though - the fat, the protein, the cholesterol, the nutrients, the cost, the availability and the environment - chicken is still the best alternative. We have found It is more important to focus on balancing your diet, eating vegetables & fruits and consuming healthy drinks.

Conclusion

The first conclusion is simple. Buy better beef. Better beef will reduce the amount of fat and calories in your ground beef while at the same time increase the effective nutrients in your ground beef. Next, we need to avoid fast food burgers. Fast food establishments use lower quality (and lower cost) beef. How do you think the Whopper ends up on the $1 menu? Also consider the ingredients you combine with your ground beef. The bun, the sauce and the ever present French fries all contribute to the overall healthiness of the meal. Finally, learn to increase health factors. Sweet potato fries are much healthier than regular fries. Flat bread is much healthier than your typical hamburger bun. Adding (some call it hiding) vegetables in your meat is a trick used by many health conscious cooks. You do not have to give up meat or Ground Beef. You simply need to make wiser choices.

© 2013 Robert Loescher

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    • chefmancave profile image
      Author

      Robert Loescher 4 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you for your kind comment. I spent a lot of time validating many of the numbers. There was lots of contradictory information on the web depending on whose website you visited. For instance, the Bison websites tell you that bison has almost zero fat, very low cholestrol and is very high in Iron. Yet when you go to several nutritional websites like "caloriecounter.about.com", they show Bison to be very average.

    • FSlovenec profile image

      Frank Slovenec 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Well written and very informative ..thank you for this reference piece.