A great hamburger is so wonderful. I I could eat hamburgers every day! So many places claim to have "The Best" Hamburger but do they really? Ground beef is made from beef trimmings. These beef trimmings are a natural by product from cutting up the beef carcass. Beef trimmings are most commonly sorted into 85's (85% lean), 65's and 50's. So to make an 80-20 (80% learn, 20% fat), a processor mixes 85's and 65's or 50's to get an 80% lean product. As beef prices rise or to have an even tastier burger, some places are going to 75% lean burgers. Also, you can buy beef subprimal cuts that are ground up like a ground chuck or a sirloin/brisket mix. My favorite is a grind with chuck/sirloin/brisket. But that gets pricey unless your customers will pay $15 for a hamburger meal. Watch out for beef trimmings that come off of aged steak cutting production. While this "ground steak" burger seems appealing, it cannot beat the fresh flavor of a burger made with fresh beef trimmings (I know, I have done thousands of these blind cuttings). Be sure to cook your burgers to 160 degrees F, as E Coli dies at this temperature. Use a meat thermometer to measure the temperature on at the center of the patty.
Beef tastes much better when it is aged. It has better flavor and is more tender and juicy. So what is the optimal age for beef before consumption? Simple answer is 14 to 21 days. I prefer 21 to 28 days on my steaks and roasts. But it depends on the cooler holding temperature. Research shows that meat ages best from 0 degrees to 4 degrees C. Colder than that, and the beef won't age much and warmer than 4 degrees C and the beef will age too fast. In general, studies show, no real advantage to aging over 14 to 21 days. Now, keep in mind that Tenderloins don't need much aging; they are already tender! But they do taste better with 14 days of age. Tenders cannot be aged as long as say, Ribeyes or Striploins. They will taste "livery" if aged past 30 days in a warmer cooler.
Burgers do not need to be aged at all, in fact, the fresher the better. I have completed hundreds of blind taste tests with panels and the freshest ground burger almost always wins the cutting/tasting.
Watch the pack dates on your beef primals and if you throw out the box, make sure you write the pack date on the primals with a marker and label. In a warm cooler or kitchen you can ruin a great piece of meat by over aging. Check the dates on all your food deliveries and make sure you are using the oldest meat first. Freeze anything that is over 30 to 40 days of age. Watch for signs of bacteria growth in the bags like air pockets or blown bags. These are signs of too much age or heat abuse.
There has been growing concern about antibiotic use in meat. The meat industry can give the consumer whatever type of meat it wants. We can raise animals without antibiotics, but it costs more to raise animals this way. Antibiotics keep animals healthier when confined closely to other animals and the animals gain weight faster. Many producers tell me that they would prefer to raise animals without antibiotics but their customers are not willing to pay the increased prices. Americans have this "Walmart" mentality. Remember when Walmart supported American made goods? But consumers wanted cheap instead of American made, so Walmart changed to being the price leader. It's no different with meat. The Meat Industry can give consumers drug free meat, cage free meat, free range, grass fed, all natural, etc. But consumers cannot expect to pay the same for meat raised without growth hormones, beta-antagonists, antibiotics, ionosphere's and pesticides if they keep shopping price. I have been in hundreds of accounts where the chef or buyer tells me, "I want Natural protein, but I don't want to pay more for it." Can't happen. Do NOT make the producers of protein into the "BAD GUY" for giving consumers what they want. For many, maybe most, it's the cheapest meat they can buy; at Walmart!
Many ask me why locally sourced proteins cost more than product shipped in from out of state, maybe even half way across the country. It's a good question and there are good answers. Let's consider locally sourced beef. Instead of a whole truck load of cattle (50 hd), I only need 5 head per week to cover the needs of my local program. So now I have to truck 5 head of live cattle to the slaughter plant, then transport the meat to a further processor to be cut up and ground. Freight of less than a load (LTL Freight) costs four times as much per pound as full loads. So instead of spending .08 on freight trucking in a full load of cattle from say 3 states away, my local LTL freight is .33/lb. Not only that, but when local programs exist we want to see the producer (rancher) make an honest, sustainable living. We don't want to put the poor rancher out of business by saying, "We'll the big guys prices this week are so and so." That doesn't matter. The big packers are producing huge volumes, selling on market pricing, and have the aforementioned economies of scale. So if you want price, buy from the big companies. If you want local, expect to pay more.
There is a lot of confusion in the market place over Grass Fed, Grain Fed, Grain Finished, Organic, Natural, Free Range, Never Ever and other terms used to differentiate companies and programs. Remember that the label on the box must verify the claims made by a brochure, sales rep or website. I have found many operators "thinking" that they were buying and paying for a premium program with marketing claims like, Organic, Local, Never Ever and Grass Fed, but the box label has nothing of the sort. Labels on boxes have to be approved by the USDA, marketing materials DO NOT. So check those box labels of the items you are buying or selling to make sure the claims on the POS are verified. Also purchasing people need to ask for documents used to make up those claims like the producer affidavits and label approvals from the USDA. There are many great companies with certifiable programs, but do your homework. When in doubt; ASK ME.