Types of Ground Beef

Ground beef is a staple protein used to create many of the comfort foods that customers love. You've probably noticed the product labels on packages of ground beef and wondered what they mean. You're not alone! The labels on ground beef are notoriously confusing. Whether you're buying ground beef in bulk or grinding fresh meat for your butcher shop, it's good to be familiar with the different types of ground beef and their labels. We'll explain which types of hamburger meat are best for your recipes and how the fat percentage on the label affects the outcome of your dish.

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What Is Ground Beef?

Ground beef on cutting board

Ground beef is meat sourced from cattle and ground into fine pieces to tenderize tougher cuts. It’s one of the most frequently purchased proteins in the US because it's versatile and affordable. You can make everything from tacos to bolognese sauce with ground hamburger meat.

When it comes to labeling, there are different types of ground beef with a range of fat percentages. Primal source ground beef comes from a specific type of beef cut, like chuck, round, or sirloin. You’ll also see the generic label "ground beef" or "ground hamburger" on some packages of beef. Any products labeled ground beef or hamburger are blends of beef from different parts of the steer, sometimes with fatty cuts added to increase the fat content.

Ground Beef Percentages

A ground beef percentage is the lean-to-fat ratio of the meat. Also called a "lean point", the percentage compares the ratio of lean meat to fat content. If you see the lean point listed as 70/30, this means the ground beef is 70% lean with 30% fat. One serving of 70/30 ground beef will contain 30% fat by weight.

What Is the Leanest Ground Beef?

The leanest type of ground beef is called ground sirloin, with a lean point of 90% lean and 10% fat (90/10). Some ground beef blends can be as lean as 96% lean with 4% fat (96/4). If you are looking for an alternative to ground beef, some types of game meat like ground bison are also very lean.

Types of Ground Beef

Ground beef can be classified by its source or by its lean point. Many times these two overlap! Below, we'll cover the four types of ground beef by source.

1. Ground Beef (70/30)

Stacked Hamburger Patties

This can be confusing, but the term ground beef is used to represent two different products. First, ground beef is the common name for any ground beef product, which can include ground sirloin or ground round. Second, if a product is simply labeled "ground beef" or "ground hamburger" with no indication of where the cut is sourced, then it’s a ground beef blend made from inexpensive trimmings.

You can find ground beef blends with a range of lean points, but 70/30 is very common. The high fat content makes this ground beef the ideal product for juicy burgers that require a lot of napkins. Just be aware that the meat will shrink considerably as the fat melts.

  • Ground Beef Fat Content - 70% lean 30% fat (70/30)
  • Ground Beef Source - A blend of leftover beef trimmings
  • How to Use Ground Beef - Juicy burgers cooked on the grill
  • Other Names for Ground Beef - Ground hamburger, hamburger meat

2. Ground Chuck (80/20)


The "ground chuck" label indicates the ground beef was sourced from the chuck portion of the cow. This area is considered a primal source and includes the neck and shoulder region. It has a high amount of fat, which makes ground chuck flavorful and juicy. But it also has a lot of connective tissue which can make the meat tough. Grinding chuck meat is a popular way to tenderize this cut.

Ground hamburger has the highest amount of fat, but ground chuck comes in at a close second. At 80/20, ground chuck contains 20% fat per serving. This makes it a great option for burger patties and meatballs that benefit from the flavor of the fat but won’t end up too greasy.

  • Ground Chuck Fat Content - 80% lean 20% fat (80/20)
  • Ground Chuck Source - Neck and shoulders
  • How to Use Ground Chuck - Burgers, meatballs
  • Other Names for Ground Chuck - Ground beef chuck

Ground Beef vs Ground Chuck

Any product labeled ground chuck is sourced only from the primal chuck portion (neck and shoulders), and any product labeled ground beef is a blend. Ground chuck (80/20) is leaner than ground beef (70/30). Also keep in mind that the term ground beef can be used as a general term, and in that case, ground chuck is a type of ground beef.

3. Ground Round (85/15)


Ground round beef is sourced from the round portion of the cow. This primal cut is located on the rump, hips, hind legs, and knees. Similar to the chuck region, this part of the cow contains a lot of tough muscle and connective tissue. Grinding beef round into hamburger makes it more tender, but you’ll find this grind source has less fat and dries out when overcooked.

The most common lean point associated with ground round is 85/15. A fat content of 15% makes this ground meat more healthy, but it also has less flavor than fattier products. The ratio of lean to fat is best used for meat mixtures that are seasoned or contain extra ingredients for binding.

  • Ground Round Fat Content - 85% lean 15% fat (85/15)
  • Ground Round Source - Hind portion of the cow
  • How to Use Ground Round - Taco meat, seasoned crumbles, meatloaf
  • Other Names for Ground Round - Ground beef round

Ground Round vs Ground Beef

Ground round is a type of ground beef that is sourced only from the round primal. The label ground beef or ground hamburger indicates the meat is a blend of trimmings. Ground round is a better choice for dishes that you don't want swimming in grease, and ground hamburger is ideal for juicy hamburgers cooked on the grill.

4. Ground Sirloin (90/10)

Ground Sirloin cooking in skillet

Ground sirloin is considered the leanest type of ground beef. It comes from the sirloin primal, which is located in the mid-back region of the steer. If you were cutting steaks, this area would produce a tri-tip steak, top sirloin, and a tenderloin (filet mignon). These cuts are more expensive, making ground sirloin the most costly option on the list. So why would you want to take a delicious, expensive steak and grind it up? The meat from the loin primal is very lean, so it produces ground beef with the healthiest lean point. You will often hear ground sirloin called extra-lean ground beef.

If you want to create a healthy menu and limit the saturated fat in your dishes, then ground sirloin is the best choice. For the best results, use this beef in dishes that have added liquid, like chili or meat sauce. The low fat content causes ground sirloin to dry out quickly.

  • Ground Sirloin Fat Content - 90% lean 10% fat (90/10)
  • Ground Sirloin Source - Sirloin subprimal (mid-back)
  • How to Use Ground Round - Meat sauces, chili, lasagna, hamburger steak
  • Other Names for Ground Round - Extra-lean ground beef

Ground Sirloin vs Ground Beef

Ground sirloin is the leanest type of ground beef, which makes it appealing as a healthy protein option. Ground beef, on the other hand, has a higher fat content which makes it a better choice for hamburger patties. To tell the difference on the labels, ground meat from the sirloin portion will always be labeled ground sirloin. Any product labeled just ground beef or ground hamburger is sourced from a blend of leftover trimmings.

Ground Beef FAQ

The subject of ground beef tends to bring up questions because of the variety of labels. We answer some of the most common questions below:

What's in Ground Beef?

If the package is just labeled ground beef, the meat contains a blend of leftover trimmings. All the pieces of lean meat and fat that are left after portioning the cow are put through a meat grinder to produce ground hamburger. If the package of ground beef is labeled ground sirloin, ground round, or ground chuck, the meat came from those portions alone.

Is Ground Sirloin the Same as Ground Beef?

A package labeled ground beef is not the same as a package labeled ground sirloin. Ground beef is a blend of different trimmings, and ground sirloin comes from the loin cut only.

Is Ground Sirloin Good for Burgers?

No, ground sirloin contains very little fat, which makes it a poor choice for burgers. Instead, try ground chuck (80/20) or ground beef (70/30).

What Is Ground Round?

Ground round is a type of ground beef that comes from the round portion of the cow (the hind quarters). A common lean point for ground round is 85% lean with 15% fat. Use this ground beef for seasoned meat mixtures because it has less flavor than fattier grinds.

What Is Ground Chuck Used For?

Ground chuck contains fatty tissue from the neck and shoulders, which makes it a good option for hamburger patties or meatballs.

What's the Difference between Ground Round and Ground Chuck?

Ground round comes from the hind quarters and contains less fat than ground chuck, which comes from the neck and shoulders. Ground chuck has more flavor, but ground round is slightly more healthy.

Now that you're familiar with the types of ground beef and the meaning of fat percentages, you can label your ground meats correctly. You'll also be able to choose the right ground beef for your recipes. Try fattier grinds like ground hamburger and ground chuck for hamburgers, and save the lean grinds like ground round and ground sirloin for seasoned meats and dishes with added liquid.

By Michale LeRoy
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