Ground beef, beef mince, minced meat, or hamburger (in the United States) is a ground meat made of beef, finely chopped by using a large knife or a meat grinder. It is used in many recipes including hamburgers and cottage pie. In some parts of the world, a meat grinder is called a mincer.
In many countries, food laws define specific categories of ground beef and what they can contain. For example, in the United States, beef fat may be added to hamburger, but not to ground beef if the meat is ground and packaged at a USDA-inspected plant.[note 1] For example, in the USA, a maximum of 30% fat by weight is allowed in either hamburger or ground beef. The allowable amount in France is 5 to 20% (15% being used by most food chains). Both hamburger and ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders, or binders added. Ground beef is often marketed in a range of different fat contents, to match the preferences of different customers.
Generally, ground beef is made from the less tender and less popular cuts of beef. Trimmings from more tender cuts may also be used.
In a study in the USA in 2008, eight different brands of fast food hamburgers were evaluated for water content by weight and recognizable tissue types using morphological techniques that are commonly used in the evaluation of tissue's histological condition. The study of the 8 laboratory specimens (H1..H8) found that the content of the hamburgers included:
- Water content 37.7% to 62.4% (mean, 49%)
- Meat content 2.1% to 14.8% (median, 12.1%)
- Skeletal tissue
- Connective tissue
- Blood vessels
- Peripheral nerve tissue
- Plant material —"Plant material, observed in some brands, was likely added as a filler to give bulk to the burger."
- Adipose tissue —"The amount of lipid observed was considerable and was seen in both adipose tissue and as lipid droplets. Lipid content on oil-red-O staining was graded as 1+ (moderate) in 6 burgers and 2+ (marked) in 2 burgers."
- Bone and Cartilage —"Bone and cartilage, observed in some brands, were not expected; their presence may be related to the use of mechanical separation in the processing of the meat from the animal. Small amounts of bone and cartilage may have been detached during the separation process."
Ground beef may contain beef produced using technology known as advanced meat recovery systems. In addition, meat processing methods employed by companies such as Beef Products Inc. and Cargill Meat Solutions produce product known as lean finely textured beef, or pink slime, from fatty beef trimmings. These trimmings are frequently treated with some form of antimicrobial agent to remove salmonella (and other pathogens) and are included in a wide variety of ground beef products in the USA.  Advanced meat recovery trimmings have been included in US meat products since 2001.
Cuts of beef
Although any beef cut may be used, chuck steak is one of the more popular choices (because of its richness of flavor and balance of meat and fat). Round steak is also frequently used. Ground beef is usually subdivided based on the cut and fat percentage:
- Chuck: 78–84% lean
- Round: 85–89% lean
- Sirloin: 90–95% lean
Ground beef is popular as a relatively cheap and quick-cooking form of beef. Some of its most well known uses are in hamburgers, sausages or cottage pie in Britain. It is an important ingredient in meatloaf, sloppy joes, tacos, and Midwestern cuisine. Italians use it to make meat sauces, for example, lasagna and spaghetti bolognese. In the Middle East, it is used to make spicy kofta and meatballs. The Scottish dish mince and tatties uses it along with mashed or boiled potatoes. In Lancashire, particularly Oldham, minced meat is a common filling for rag pudding. The Dutch slavink consists of ground beef (half beef, half pork) rolled in bacon.
Raw lean ground beef is used to make steak tartare, a French dish. More finely diced and differently seasoned, it is popular as a main course and as a dressing in Belgium, where it is known as filet américain ("American fillet"). Picadillo is a Spanish term for ground beef, and is a common ingredient in several Latin American cuisines. Picadillo with chili pepper and finely diced onion and potato is a common filling for tacos and gorditas in Mexico.
Food safety of ground meat issues are due to possible bacterial contamination. Undercooked E. coli outbreak hamburgers contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 were responsible for four deaths and the illness of hundreds of people in 1993. Minced beef must be cooked to 72 °C (160 °F) to ensure that all bacterial contamination, whether it be endogenous to the product or contaminated after purchasing by the consumer, is killed. Cooked color does not always indicate the beef has reached the required temperature, as beef can brown before reaching 68 °C (155 °F).
To ensure the safety of food distributed through the National School Lunch Program, food banks, and other federal food and nutrition programs, the United States Department of Agriculture has established food safety and quality requirements for the ground beef it purchases. A 2010 National Research Council report reviewed the scientific basis of the Department’s ground beef safety standards, evaluated how the standards compare to those used by large retail and commercial food service purchasers of ground beef, and looked at ways to establish periodic evaluations of the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program. The report found that although the safety requirements could be strengthened using scientific concepts, the prevention of future outbreaks of foodborne disease will depend on eliminating contamination during production and ensuring meat is properly cooked before it is served.
- A technicality here is that these rules only apply to meat being sold across state lines. Much ground beef in the US is actually produced at a local grocery store, and is not sold across state lines. In these cases the laws of the local state apply; state laws can have the same or different requirements.
- "Ground Beef and Food Safety". Fsis.usda.gov. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Fast food hamburgers: what are we really eating?" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- [dead link]
- Michael Moss (2009-12-31). "Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned". NY Times. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- [dead link]
- "Case Study: Jack in the Box E. coli crisis". Ou.edu. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- [dead link]
- "An Evaluation of the Food Safety Requirements of the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program (2010) : Division on Earth and Life Studies". Dels.nas.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-11.
- "Division on Earth and Life Studies". Dels.nas.edu. Retrieved 2015-11-11.