So many recipes call for ground beef (or mince meat, depending on where you’re from). It’s on sale in every supermarket and butcher, but what exactly is in it – and should you buy it?
What Actually Is It?
The point of mince meat, is to use all of the bits of the animal that can’t be used elsewhere. Commercially produced ground beef will typically contain parts from hundreds of different carcasses. This product is also a good way to make use of old dairy cattle, and other animals that wouldn't be used for the popular cuts of meat. A pack of ground beef could contain all sorts of different parts of thousands of cows, yet the ingredients will still say “100% beef”.
The E. Coli Risk
The other significant problem with ground beef, is the health risk.
E. Coli can get into the food chain when the dirty exterior (and particularly any faeces) come into contact with the inside of the meat – the bits that go into the mince.
In a small scale operation cross contamination like this is unlikely, but in a large processing plant, where workers are under pressure to turn around as many animals as possible, the risk is far higher. The way ground meat is made, means any bacteria that has accumulate on the surface of the meat will rapidly permeate through the whole product.
Where so many animal parts are present in one product, the risk is obviously greatly increased. To mitigate the risk, the meat is often vacuumed, washed with hot water and lactic acid, but these measures do not guarantee safety.
What’s The Solution?
For me, the solution is making my own ground beef. I have bought an old fashioned, hand operated mincer, that clamps to my kitchen counter. This means I can buy my own grass-fed organic beef, from my trusted butcher. This way I know exactly what my minced meat contains, I can make it fresh when I need it, and won’t need to store it, which will help the bacteria risk.
Do you make your own ground meat? I’d love to hear your thoughts on minced meat, and whether you’re happy to buy it, or make your own.