Leaning Towards Leaner

It is not a surprise to hear that dietary preferences are changing towards leaner meats. With more and more information available regarding health and nutrition, consumers have become more concerned with their health and what they consume. While it is easy to recognize changes in product development with labels shouting “fat free,” “zero-sugar added,” and “low calorie food,” we do not usually think about how farming and ranching techniques have changed over time to meet demands for “healthier” options. How are ranchers and growers keeping up with the demand?

Leaning Out

The 1980’s saw a shift in focus towards nutrition and diet in America. In 1977, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs recommended a reduction in consumption of high fat foods and animal fat. In 1980, the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans was published, sparking many changes in the consumer marketplace. The National Consumer Retail Beef Study was funded by members of the beef community in 1986 to address consumer issues with beef. The study established that the change in consumer preference towards leaner cuts was driven by dietary recommendations and increased nutritional knowledge.

In 1988, the Beef Checkoff Program was created. This program collects $1 per head on the sale of live cattle, then the Beef Checkoff funds research and education. The first major research design funded by the National Beef Checkoff Program was the National Beef Market Basket Survey. This study brought industry leaders to the realization that most animal fat was being removed at the processing level, due to consumer demand. For this reason, efforts were made to reduce fat produced to reduce overall waste while maintaining high quality, taste and tenderness. The Value-Based Marketing Task Force then initiated a “War on Fat” campaign to reduce excess fat produced.

Production Changes

To reduce the production of fat while maintaining high quality beef, farmers and ranchers worked to produce leaner animals. Leaner beef results primarily from a change in breeding and feeding practices. Cattle are bred to enhance desirable traits, such as leaner animals. Feeding practices have improved due to research on ration and nutrition to optimize cattle health. While much of lean beef relies on specific genetics and raising of cattle, farmers and ranchers commit to and care for their land, stewardship practices that ensure sustainability for the land, and their cattle.

Photo by Roxanne Knight

Leaner beef results primarily from a change in breeding and feeding practices.

Lean Beef Options

A 3.5 ounce serving of beef qualifies as “lean” by the USDA, if it contains:

  • 4.5 grams of less of saturated fat
  • 10 grams or less of total fat
  • less than 95 mg of cholesterol

There are many cuts of beef that qualify as lean, including 17 of the 25 most popular cuts of beef, like Top Sirloin, Skirt Steak, and the Tenderloin.

Many lean cuts of beef are the most popular like the Top Sirloin, Skirt Steak, and the Tenderloin.

Naturally nutrient-rich, beef is an optimal choice for protein because it contains all nine essential amino-acids. Because the human body cannot make these building blocks, they must be obtained from another source: protein. Registered Dietitian Caitlin Mondellli says, “Beef is a healthy protein source that can fit into an everyday diet. We tend to think of beef in a high calorie context, but more than 60% of retail cuts are considered lean.” Cailtin adds cuts of beef into her diet weekly. Suggesting that consumers balance their plates with grains and vegetables, “I select leaner cuts, so I can add cheese or other fat sources to my plate. All cuts of meat can fit, you just have to create that balance.” With so many lean beef options, consumers do not have to sacrifice delicious to live a leaner life.


This post was written by Celia Dubauskas. Celia is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University, studying Nutrition Communication. This spring, she has been an intern for Arizona Beef Council, creating written and social content for our platforms. Celia is an experienced fitness professional and is certified as a personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Her passion for fitness has fueled her interest in nutrition and learning more about health and diet culture. Keep on eye out for upcoming posts!

St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrate with Beef

Green beer and corned beef day is just around the corner! While you don’t need a recipe for the beer, we can help with the directions on the corned beef. Plus ideas for breakfast and lunch the next day! Bonus: A perfect beef-y brunch drink is included in our recipe round up!

Slow-Cooked Corned Beef in Beer with Red Currant-Mustard Sauce

Let your slow cooker do all the work for this complete meal of beer-braised Corned Beef with fresh cabbage and red potatoes. It’s a great dish for your next celebration.

Dijon-Glazed Corned Beef with Savory Cabbage and Red Potatoes

While Corned Beef braises in the oven, cabbage wedges and potatoes are roasted for a full meal. A bonus recipe for the leftovers is included too!

Corned Beef Brisket with Roasted Vegetables and Lemon-Mustard Sauce

Cook once, dine twice. Enjoy Corned Beef Brisket with roasted carrots, parsnips, cabbage and a lemony sauce tonight, then spin the leftovers into a savory salad tomorrow.

Bloody Bull

Try this brunch favorite with a depth of flavor only beef can provide. Roasted Beef Stock is the secret ingredient to this one of a kind Bloody Mary. Garnish with a beef slider, beef meatball, or whatever you can dream up.

Corned Beef Hash

Tied with the Reuben for the ultimate expression of Corned Beef. Here it’s diced, skillet-cooked with cubed potatoes and thinly sliced leeks, and ideally topped with an egg.

Classic Beef Reuben Sandwich

Try this deli classic for lunch or dinner today. Thinly sliced deli Corned Beef or Pastrami is sandwiched between rye bread with sauerkraut and a tangy home-made dressing.

All photos courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Cattle Byproducts: More Than Just Beef

What do footballs, lipstick, charcoal, paint, and wallpaper have in common? They are all important items we use in our lives and they all come from cattle.

These guys, they are more than just beef! Photo by Dan Bell.

Wait, what? Yup, you heard us! Those items all contain an ingredient from cattle which we call a by-product. The main reason we raise cattle is for the delicious beef they produce. What is left over is called a byproduct. While the word byproduct might sound like something that isn’t useful, don’t let the word deceive you. These items are extremely important to many of the everyday items you use at home.

You can think of it as a recipe. Just like you have a recipe to make, let’s say, meatloaf, there is a recipe to make lipstick, or footballs, or paint. The recipe provides you the ingredient list and the steps to get you to the end product. The byproducts from beef are one of those ingredients on the list.

Just like this Summertime Meat Loaf has a recipe so do other products!
Photo and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

When we harvest a beef animal, about 60% of that animal becomes beef. The remaining 40% includes things like skin, fat, bones, tendons, organs, etc. Here is where byproducts become especially important. We can’t waste half an animal! But we can use those items in inventive and innovative ways to help make our lives easier.

An obvious byproduct is leather. It comes from the cow’s hide. Cowhides are an important part of most of America’s popular sports. One cowhide can make 12 basketballs OR 144 baseballs OR 20 footballs OR 18 volleyballs OR 18 soccer balls OR 12 baseball gloves.

Gelatin is another great example of a beef byproduct. It comes from connective tissue and is a staple ingredient in anything that jiggles or has that well known springy consistency. Hello Jello and gummy bears! Marshmallows and gum are two other products which contain gelatin.

Photo from BBC News.

It’s not just yummy products which contain cattle byproducts. Many important medical items also contain these useful items. Ointments for burns and first aid creams use byproducts as an ingredient along with extremely important antirejection drugs, which are used when someone has a heart, liver, or other organ transplants. The sticky part on bandages can be made from the fatty acid.

Photo by Cattle Empire‘s blog on cattle byproducts.

Other items which contain beef byproducts are insulin, dog food, rawhide bones, laundry pre-treatment, bone china, toilet paper (to make it soft), glue, dish soap, candles, film, crayons, paintbrushes, printing ink, nail polish remover, deodorants, antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluid, car wax, highways, tires, and so much more!

Add this to the list of reasons why cattle are amazing animals. They take sunlight which was used by plants we cannot eat and turn it into delicious and nutritious beef and all of these things we use to help make life easier. Thank goodness for cows!

Graphic by Cattle Tales.