Ground beef is a versatile consumer favorite
by Rick McCarty, Vice President, Issues Analysis and Strategy – NCBA
Ground beef accounts for almost half the beef purchased at retail and close to 70 percent of the beef eaten at foodservice.
Ground beef’s popularity and versatility is evident in the frequency with which it is eaten in the home and by the many ways it is used as an ingredient in dishes. Spaghetti and meat sauce tops burgers as the most frequently made ground beef meal by consumers at home.
Consumers value lean ground beef and think it is worth the cost and agree that ground beef can be an affordable, nutritious, low-fat meal. More than a third choose 90-percent lean ground beef or higher, to make crumbles to use in a variety of dishes.
Ground beef is a mainstay of the beef industry and a consumer favorite because of its taste, convenience, versatility and affordability. Ninety-four percent of American consumers say they eat ground beef and, based on the most recent data, it accounts for 48 percent of all fresh beef purchased at supermarkets and 67 percent of all beef eaten at foodservice.
A checkoff survey of American consumers in November 2010 assessed the many ways ground beef is prepared in the home, and probed specifically on preparation of ground beef crumbles. Consumers studied were beef eaters who are the primary food preparer/cook or shared the responsibility for preparing and cooking meals.
Previous research has shown that consumers place a high value on lean beef and ground beef is no exception. Lean (90% lean or better) ground beef accounts for 17.5 percent of ground beef sold at supermarkets. In addition, the ground beef cooking survey found that more than one-third of consumers (36%) say they choose 90-percent lean or higher when they cook both ground beef crumbles and ground beef patties.
Value of lean
The value of leanness to consumers was evident in their agreement with statements about lean ground beef. Although only about one-third of consumers said they are eating lean ground beef more often, 62 percent agreed that lean ground beef is worth the cost and 59 percent agreed that ground beef can be a nutritious, low fat and affordable meal.
Frequency of consumptionFrequency of consumption
Americans are frequent eaters of ground beef dishes – 43 percent eat ground beef at home twice a week or more and 67 percent prepare a ground beef dish at least once a week.
Most popular dishes
The most popular ground beef dish at home is spaghetti and meat sauce (53% prepare this often) followed by burgers (46%), tacos and other Mexican dishes (38%) and chili and stews (36%).
Women and households with children are more likely to prepare spaghetti and meat sauce. All consumers prepared burgers about equally but households with children, Hispanics and consumers younger than 54 are more likely to prepare tacos and other Mexican dishes. Consumers 55 and older are more likely to cook meatloaf and Hispanics and especially Millennials (those born from 1980-2000) are much more likely to cook lasagna.
Ground beef crumbles
Most consumers (89%) are familiar with ground beef crumbles and 65 percent say they frequently prepare crumbles for use in ground beef dishes. There is a wide range of other names used for crumbles including browned ground beef, browned hamburger, browned beef, taco meat and chopped beef. However, crumbles seems to be the most widely recognized description. When choosing ground beef for crumbles, more than a third (36%) of consumers say they choose 90-percent lean or higher and just over half (51%) choose 80-percent to 85-percent lean.
The vast majority (80%) prefer to make ground beef crumbles themselves. Only 20 percent say they would use crumbles more often if they could buy them pre-cooked, so they could be added to a recipe without browning the ground beef first. Those most likely to say they would buy pre-cooked crumbles are consumers who are younger – aged 18-34 – and those not married.
Ground beef cooks use one or more methods of dealing with the fat when cooking crumbles. Most (86%) say they drain the fat before completing the recipe and others blot the crumbles with a paper towel or rinse the crumbles before completing the recipe. Only 7 percent say they don’t do anything to reduce the fat.
Consumers tend to prepare just enough crumbles for a specific dish. More than three-quarters say they rarely (24%) or never (52%) freeze crumbles for future use. Only 6 percent say they freeze crumbles very (1%) or fairly (5%) often.
The most frequently used ground beef cooking method at home is browning crumbles in a skillet – 65 percent of consumers say they often cook ground beef this way with 43 percent saying they brown crumbles with no oil and 22 percent saying they brown crumbles with oil or cooking spray. Grilled patties (44%) are in second place. Broiling patties in the oven is the least used method for cooking ground beef by consumers (7%).
Consumers with incomes above $50,000 per year are more likely to cook patties on a grill while women and consumers age 18-54 are more likely to cook crumbles in a skillet with no oil. Consumers aged 55 or older are more likely to bake meatloaf in the oven and to cook crumbles in a skillet with oil or cooking spray. Younger consumers, age 18-34, also are somewhat more likely brown crumbles in a skillet with oil or cooking spray but Hispanics are much more likely than any other group to cook crumbles this way.
Ground beef patties
For cooking patties, a majority (56%) choose 80-percent to 85-percent lean while more than one-third (36%) prefer 90-percent lean or better. Older consumers (aged 55 and older) were more likely to choose lean and extra lean ground beef for cooking patties.
It is important to remember the importance of ground beef as a staple to consumers. It accounts for almost half the beef purchased at retail and close to 70 percent of the beef eaten at foodservice. Ground beef usually is the young consumer’s first experience with beef – perhaps in the form of spaghetti and meat sauce, a burger or a bowl of chili – and these dishes remain important to consumers throughout their lives. Consumers see ground beef as tasty, affordable and, in the form of lean ground beef, a nutritious, low-fat meal.
Ground beef is a strong foundation of the beef industry and of the consumer’s love of beef.