Are there multiple cows in ground beef?

In a typical pound of ground beef, is it beef from just one cow? Or do they just toss em all in a blender meaning your pound of ground beef could be made up of multiple cows?

Lots of cows. Even at home, my ground beef came from several cows.

Store has roasts on sale for a buck a pound, but hamburger is $2.49? Last time they had this pricing, I bought 18 roasts and diced 12 of them into “stew meat” chunks (which the store sells for an apalling $3.99 a pound!) At this point, I have a large metal bowl full of beef chunks from twelve cows. I fed roughly three-quarters of this, or about 9 cows’ worth through the grinder. The net result is that any given hamburger isn’t going to be from any one specific cow, and probably has some amount from all twelve that went into my processing.

I’m pretty sure it’s usually multiple cows, although it depends on the butcher.

Nasty as that may be, you probably don’t want to know about mechanically separated meats.

There is no effort made to keep the animals separate but the actual likelihood that any pound of beef contains multiple animals depends on where it was made and what the quality is like.

Something like hamburger patty is made from offcuts and trimming at the abbatoir. Basically any meat that is bruised and any meat left clinging to the skeleton after the main cuts have been removed are thrown into a hopper and minced up. On a line with dozens of slicers the result is going to be pretty mixed up. So any individual patty will almost certainly contain multiple animals.

At the other end of the scale prime minced beef prepared by a butcher will mostly come from one carcasse. Once again, no real effort is made to separate animals but butchers won’t start on a new carcasse until the old one is finished, so it’s only the end of one run and the beginning of another that will be mixed up.

I took a microbiology course a couple of years ago. The professor used to be an industrial microbiologist working in quality control on a beef grinding line. He asked us if we knew about e. coli. Most of us nodded. Then he asked for guesses about what percentage of ground beef had e. coli. in it. People guessed none, 1%, 20% etc.

He yelled out “NO, Every damn sample I ever tested had e. coli in it. It was just a question of how much.”

He went on to explain that meat grinding is a messy business and there is no good way to keep the machines clean enough to prevent cross-contamination and bacterial growth. I suppose a package of ground beef may be mostly from one animal and lots of tiny bits from others.

Not my ground beef. I buy a roast and have it trimmed of fat, then ground up. So, it is freshly ground and only comes from one cow.

McDonald’s hamburgers are even made from different kinds of cows. They combine the fat trimmed from beef steers to produce leaner meat with meat from retired dairy cows, which generally don’t have enough fat to taste good. This way, they get all of their meat cheaper, and they can precisely control for the fat percentage they want. So whenever you eat at Mickey D’s, you can be absolutely certain that at least two beeves (and probably a lot more, of course) contributed significantly to your Quarter Pounder avec fromage.

Thank you. I can now claim that I have seen the word “beeve” in the wild. Prior to this it has only been observed in captive discussion about the general term for “cow”.

Milk, also. The dairy farm puts the milk from all its cows into one big tank, then the commercial dairy mixes all the deliveries from individual farms into one bigger tank.

The same grinders used to make hamburger are also used for ground pork and other meats. They are supposed to be cleaned and sterilized, but often are not. This permits adulteration of pork or other meet into hamburger.

Also, you may think you are getting 100% beef, but there are unscrupulous operators who intentionally add pork into beef.

In the oft-cited Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser also says that ground beef is from several cows. Given the nature of the equipment, it seems that that would be inevitable.

I think it would be more accurate to say "careless operators’ rather than unscrupulous. It’s usually not done intentionally.

Why would they, when pork is often selling for a higher price than beef?

Well, both are true.

Meat from many animals is put into the meat grinder, with no attempt to keep it seperated. So it could come from multiple cows.

However, they butcher cows one after another, so most of the meat in the grinder at one time is mainly from the one cow being processed right now. Since a pound is a fairly small amount, it’s quite likely that that one pound came from a single cow.

Well…in microbiology, that’s true of pretty much everything. You never talk in terms of “is this there or not”. It’s nearly always more useful to talk about what level it’s at. I remember a similar discussion in one of my food micro classes, where we were talking about processes that kill 90% of the bacteria present in, say, a can of food. The professor asked what happens if we get down to, on average, one bacterium per can, then run it through one more process. You can’t have one tenth of a bacterium, so do you say it’s free of bacteria? No. You’d then be averaging one bacterium in every ten cans. Off topic, but hey, I’m tired.

having worked in a butchershop, no, your mince is not just from one cow…it may not have even been from one type of animal. it can also contain ‘traces’ (a cupful in 30-40kg approx) of any of the following…pork, venison, kangaroo, lamb, sausage meal, and on really bad days, pet mince…you don’t want to know what goes into pet mince.

Well, pets. Duh.

If you buy your beef cheap at Costco it is possible. If you buy from a better source you may have beef from one or more steers or heifers, not cows. Remember, beef cows are mommy bovine, not the species name.

In Fast Food Nation, Schlosser wrote that a *single hamburger patty * could contain beef from 100 different cattle.

Having toured beef production plants, I am in no way surprised.

Alton Brown once asked a butcher about the store “ground beef.” He was told that it was made from the leftovers of all sorts of cuts, from any number of cows. Alton observed that it likely contained really good meat, as well as lesser cuts like chuck.

It’s not just McDonald’s. This is pretty standard for hamburger meat of the pre-package patty type. Marvin Harris writes about this in his chapter on beef eating in his anthropology book Good to Eat. The reason you mix them is that the ground beef itself is pretty lean. To make it stick together you use fat from the bellies of cows raised for steaks, he claims. This lets him charmingly claim that “When you buy a hamburger, you’re subsidizing someone else’s steak”.