Tenn., Feb 1, 2007 – Fat trim levels and separable fat content of some beef cuts in the retail case are leaner than ever before and leaner than reported in government nutrition databases, according to a new checkoff-funded study that evaluated more than 10,000 cuts from 82 U.S. retail stores.
Overall fat thickness (fat trim) for retail cuts was 0.24 cm, or less than a tenth of an inch. Cuts from the round and chuck had less external fat than cuts from the rib and loin.
The 2005 study revealed that 11 cuts from the chuck, rib, loin and round were not only leaner than previously reported, they are popular with consumers—accounting for 26 percent of all fresh beef items (lbs) sold at retail through the year ending September 30, 2006 according to FreshLook Marketing Group scanner data. In addition, 78 of the 82 stores audited offered ground beef with 90 percent or greater lean content.
Beef checkoff funds have made nutrient database improvement a top priority in recent years. “Because these figures are used to develop national nutritional recommendations and food policies, it's a critical and continuing job to assure that the composition of retail beef is accurately represented,” said Cattlemen's Beef Board member Greg Hilgeman, 2005-2006 chairman of the checkoff's Joint Human Nutrition Research Committee.
“It's vital that we as a beef industry make the necessary investment to research and disseminate accurate information on the nutritional composition of our product,” Hilgeman added.
The first checkoff-funded Market Basket Survey in 1991 also showed some leaner-than-listed cuts, and consumers have continued to demand more closely trimmed beef cuts. Of the 10,000-plus cuts examined during the 2005 study, more than 72 percent had trim levels at or below 1/8th inch.
An array of actions throughout the beef production chain has helped lead to these improvements, according to Dr. Jeff Savell, a Texas A&M University meat scientist who led the research team.
“The retail case is filled with products that are nutritionally superior to those in the past,” said Dr. Savell. “This is a result of genetic management, marketing and merchandising efforts by the entire beef chain.”
The Market Basket Study occurred from January to March 2006. Contributors included researchers from Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, California Polytechnic State University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Florida, the University of Missouri, Oklahoma State University and South Dakota State University, as well as staff from the Research and Knowledge Management Group, which manages checkoff-funded research projects.