[#136, #137; Minced Beef (UK)]
Ground beef can be made from any meaty part of the cow that is free of bones, cartilage, tendons, lymph glands and heavy connective tissue. It can be made from fresh beef or from a mix of fresh and frozen beef to the extent allowed by the purchaser. Unless otherwise specified, fat content can not exceed 22%, but in no case more than 30%. There are a number of variations. The photo specimen is 30% fat, the most flavorful mix.
The purchaser may specify that up to 20% of the product be Lean Finely Textured Beef. Labeling must meet FSIS regulations. This has been a bit out of style due to the silly "Pink Slime" brouhaha. Adding beef to beef - my word!
#136A: Ground Beef and Vegetable Protein Product. This is #136 mixed with VPP (Vegetable Protein Product). This is approved for the Child Nutrition Program, provided the VPP meets USDA-FNS nutritional standards. The mix of VPP and water added to the beef must contain at least 18% protein.
#136B: Beef Patty Mix. This is the same as #136A except the VPP mix need not meet USDA-FNS standards.
#136C: Beef Patty Mix, Lean. This must meet all
requirements of #136 except contain no more than 10% fat. It may contain
VPP, seasonings and other ingredients to make it palatable, but these
must not exceed 10% of the finished product.
#137: Ground Beef, Special. This is the same as #136, except at least 50% must be boneless meat directly from primal cuts. The remaining 50% can be offcuts from meat cutting. The buyer can specify from which primal cuts the meat comes from.
#137A: This follows the rules for #137 except it can be blended with VPP (Vegetable Protein Product) as for #136B.
More on Cuts of Beef.
Health Considerations: Ground beef is the most dangerous cut of beef as far as bacterial infection is concerned. Whole chunks of beef are safer, because any bacteria will be on the outside, where cooking temperatures are almost certain to be high enough to kill them all. During grinding, any bacteria on the outside of the beef will be churned into the ground meat.
All surfaces, tools and hands used with ground beef should be thoroughly cleaned both before and after dealing with the beef. The beef should be kept refrigerated at below 40°F/4°C at all times and should be used as soon after grinding as possible.
Fat Content: The higher the fat content the moister and more flavorful the cooked beef will be - but, of course, it will contain more fat. How much fat and what kind should be in the diet is currently very controversial. Many health practitioners are turning away from the low fat diet, and especially away from the villainization of saturated fats. Medical studies on the subject are, as always, incomplete, inconclusive, defective in design and execution, financially motivated, unverifiable and at odds with one another - you're pretty much on your own here.
Buying: Preferably buy chunks of beef and grind it yourself just before using. Alternatively, buy from a market that has high turnover so it's likely freshly ground, and pay attention to the expiration date.
Some markets will grind the beef for you at time of purchase. This is still not ideal, because the grinding machinery may still contain residue from previous batches.
Cooking: Safest is to cook fairly well done. Unfortunately, for hamburger patties and the like, this is not ideal as they are much more flavorful fairly rare. If you are confident in your ground beef, you can do it medium rare.