Is Store-Ground Meat Better Than Pre-Packaged?

Not only is it safe to eat, but store-ground meat will actually taste better, too!

Recently, there have been numerous recalls involving ground meat, which has to make you wonder: is it even safe to eat? The short answer is yes—most recalls only have an effect on a small portion of products—but you might still have a healthy fear of the stuff. Before you swear off ground beef forever, consider taking a harder look at a different product: store-ground beef from the butcher counter.

What is Store-Ground Beef, and Is It Safer?

Store-ground beef is exactly what it sounds like: beef that’s ground on-site at your local grocery store. There’s a big difference between this product and the pre-packaged stuff from the refrigerator section. Off-site ground beef is made from trimmings—the pieces that butchers remove from primal cuts and steaks to make them look more desirable. These trimmings go into a box and when that box is full, they grind it. This kind of ground beef is probably made up of many (many) different animals. If one of those animals is contaminated with E. coli or Salmonella, the entire batch is at risk.

On the other hand, store-ground beef is ground on-site at your local store. These butchers don’t have access to hundreds of cows, so they’re not using trimmings: they’re using whole steaks. Since you know that a steak comes from one cow and one cow only, you’ll minimize your risk of cross-contamination.

How Do You Get Store-Ground Beef?

Don’t be shy! It all starts with asking. You can ask the butcher if the bulk beef in the display counter is ground in-house, or they can grind a steak especially for you. You can even request a specialty blend by grinding few different steaks together! Or, if you have a grinder attachment for your stand mixer, you can grind it yourself, but that’s really next level.

What Cut Should You Pick?

A chuck steak is a great, all-purpose cut of meat for grinding. It’s naturally composed of 20-percent fat, so it makes the perfect 80/20 burgers. It’s the juiciest, most flavorful cut for ground beef, but if you’re looking for something leaner, ask for a round roast (which is about 85 percent lean) or a sirloin (about 90-percent lean).

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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.