Alternative Proteins: Better Than Real Beef?

It seems like every time you open a health or fitness magazine, a lean celebrity is promoting the newest power protein food. And for good reason — a healthy, balanced diet includes a variety of protein sources. As such, alternative proteins are gaining attention, space in the fridge and on the plate for their health benefits. However, the perceived benefits may not outweigh the unintentional nutritional consequences of not including lean meats in your diet.

Real Beef Packs a Punch

Plant-based food advocates like to offer other foods to bolster protein content in plant-based diets such as black beans, quinoa and edamame. However, you may be surprised that choosing beef is actually a calorie-saver. Beef supplies significantly fewer calories and more nutrients than many plant proteins.

A cooked three-ounce lean beef burger patty averages around 154 calories while providing approximately 25 grams of protein, which is nearly half of the recommended daily value.[1] On the other hand, a veggie burger patty may be lower in calories, but only contains 13 grams of protein per serving,[2] which could lead to filling up your plate with high-calorie side dishes.

Caloric content of varied protein sources

Caloric information sourced from USDA ARS

One of the many benefits of protein-dense beef is the feeling of satiety that occurs after a beef meal. Eating protein-rich foods like lean beef helps keep cravings at bay and can assist with healthy weight loss and maintenance.

Stick to the Real Deal: Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner

 It’s true that nothing comes close to the taste of real beef. Some alternative protein products, such as in-vitro or “faux” meat, may mimic the texture and flavor of beef, but thus far those alternatives have been expensive to develop and in short supply. With 63 percent of whole muscle beef* in the meat case meeting the government guidelines for lean and a multitude of ways to save on beef purchases, why not include real beef as a weekly meal-planning staple?

Today’s lean beef is a delicious source of protein that supports weight loss goals, satisfies a heart healthy diet and is packed with nutrients, not excessive calories. Nutrition facts show that calorie for calorie, it’s hard to beat the nutrients you get from a single serving of lean beef. Just a 3-ounce serving contains 10 percent or more of your daily needs for all of these essential nutrients – protein, zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, iron and selenium.

Beef is a great tasting, high-quality protein package that can help strengthen and sustain your body. There are endless exciting, flavorful recipes that combine delicious beef and colorful veggies in the recipe box on the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. website. So choose beef and enjoy mealtime!

* When cooked with visible fat trimmed.

[1] The “daily value” percentage helps you determine how much of a particular nutrient a food contributes to average daily needs. Each nutrient is based on 100% of the daily requirements for that nutrient (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).
[2] Based on a Boca Burger brand veggie burger, “Boca Original Vegan Patty”
[3] US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory

Should I Eat Less Red Meat for a Healthy Diet?

BBQ steak on a stick with pineapple salsa

Lean beef can be part of a healthy diet

Myth: The new 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating less red meat, like beef.

Fact: Actually, the new guidelines reaffirm the role of lean beef in a healthy diet and confirm that Americans are, on average, consuming fresh, lean red meat (which includes lean beef) at levels consistent with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The new Dietary Guidelines are good news for beef lovers!

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Dietary Guidelines are just that: guidelines. They are not prescriptions. The recommendations for protein vary widely based on age and gender and are for people who get less than 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Your needs may vary significantly from another family member’s. For example:

  • A growing teenage boy who is active in a variety of sports may need more protein for optimal performance and health compared to an older sedentary person.
  • A young, first time mother who is nursing a child or running after a toddler may need more protein to nourish herself compared to a middle-aged adult woman who doesn’t have as many family demands.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all, so we all need to find ways to meet our protein and nutritional needs while using these recommendations as a baseline.

Just as we are all different, not all meat is the same. The new Dietary Guidelines recommend Americans choose lean proteins. While you may not think of beef as lean, there are now 38 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean, including some of America’s favorite cuts like sirloin steak and 95% lean ground beef.

You may have also heard the Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming a plant-based diet. Does that mean we should cut back on meat? Not necessarily. Most Americans do not need to change how much beef they enjoy, but we all should be mindful of balancing our diets. Many of us would benefit from eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with but we can do this by choosing empty calorie foods less often. Even teen boys and adult males, who do tend to eat more total protein, are not approaching the upper end of the acceptable range for protein outlined in the Dietary Guidelines.

Lean beef is a wholesome, nutrient-rich food that helps you get back to the basics of healthy eating. A single 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in about 150 calories – including nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins that are critical for development and optimal health throughout life.

So how much red meat should you consume? This protein calculator estimates your suggested protein intake based on height, weight, age, gender and level of physical activity. Americans with special dietary needs or who are looking for individual advice about how to build a healthy diet with lean beef may want to seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian or their personal physician.


4 BOLD Reasons Lean Beef Supports Your New Year’s Resolutions

When planning and implementing your New Year’s Resolutions for this year it’s important to stack the deck in your favor, to increase the likelihood of your success. Many have found great success enjoying beef as a top source of lean protein and essential nutrients. Here are 4 BOLD reasons to include lean beef (and its many benefits) in your diet in 2016 and beyond!

  1. Lean beef satisfies a heart healthy dietLean beef steaks with pineapple glaze

Multiple research papers published from Penn State University Clinical Nutrition Research Center on the BOLD (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) study have shown that a heart healthy diet, including lean beef daily, leads to simultaneous reductions in a variety of risk factors for heart disease including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (often called ‘bad cholesterol’), and blood pressure.

  1. Today’s beef is a satisfying lean protein choice to support your weight loss goals

Protein plays an extremely important role in weight loss, and lean beef is equipped to provide you all the research-proven benefits. Research shows that protein rich food like lean beef may help increase feelings of fullness and control cravings, while also packing the ideal levels of a key compound called leucine, which helps your body build calorie burning muscle.

  1. Lean beef is packed with nutrients you need, not excessive calories that you don’t

Calorie for calorie, it is hard to beat all the nutrients you get from a single serving of lean beef. When you are watching and reducing your calorie intake to aid in your weight loss efforts, it can be hard to get all the nutrients that your body needs to stay nourished and energized. Just a 3oz serving of lean beef contains 10% or more of your daily needs of all these essential nutrients – protein (48%), zinc (36%), vitamin B12 (44%), selenium (40%), phosphorus (19%), niacin (26%), Vitamin B6 (22%), iron (12%), riboflavin (10%) and choline (16%).¹

  1. With so many flavorful ways to prepare lean beef, you can keep your diet exciting and fresh

A major downfall of “healthy diets” is the doom and gloom associated with their bland menus. Lean beef brings the variety and flavors that you love with the health punch your body needs. Don’t relinquish your taste buds to bland proteins and steamed vegetables when you can enjoy dishes like beef chili, fajitas, and sweet potato hash.

¹ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

What Do Dietitians Think about Red Meat and Cancer?

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry.

Jan Tilley, MS, RDN, LD

Jan Tilley – MS, RDN, LD – is a nutrition professional who truly believes that red meat, such as lean beef, should be part of a healthy dietary pattern.

Misinformation Can Be Scary

At JTA Wellness, we want to clear up the confusion around red meat and redirect conversation back to the importance of seeking balance and moderation in the foods we choose. The fact is no single food has ever been found to cause cancer. From studying the current American diet, we know that it is heavy in carbohydrates, processed foods and light in high quality protein, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Nutrient dense lean protein sources, such as lean beef, are key to maximizing energy, building lean muscle mass and creating satiety.

Understanding Diet, Inflammation and Cancer

A key area of interest in the link between diet and cancer is the role of chronic inflammation. To help understand how inflammation can lead to cancer, it is important to understand that there are two types of inflammation found in our bodies – acute inflammation and chronic inflammation.

Acute inflammation occurs when we have a bee sting or flu virus where our immune system jumps into action by sending white blood cells and proteins to help fight off the enemy. When the inflammation is resolved, the immune response shuts down and everything goes back to normal.

Chronic inflammation occurs when our immune system fights to repair an ongoing problem, such as obesity, but never receives the signal to stop. There is a growing body of evidence citing that the link between diet and cancer may be found in chronic inflammation. In this scenario our body mistakenly identifies healthy tissues as harmful pathogens. In addition to causing some types of cancer, chronic inflammation may be the root cause of many of the chronic diseases we see as we age including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.

Preventing Cancer with a Healthy Lifestyle

In addition to making unhealthy food choices, it should be noted that there are many behavioral changes that are known to act as factors that can lead to the development of some types of cancer. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Poor stress management

The power of making healthy choices, both in how we fuel and care for our body, remains our best option for preventing the development of many types of cancer. We know that good health requires effort, dedication and determination to pursue an active, disciplined lifestyle that maximizes health and wellbeing.

Red Meat in the Diet

There is an abundance of evidence-based research demonstrating that a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats can decrease our risk of developing cancer. Lean beef can be an important part of a healthy diet and is an excellent source of protein, heme-iron, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc and niacin. Certain cuts of beef, such as top sirloin, are not only high in protein but also have less fat than a 3-ounce boneless, skinless chicken thigh When shopping for lean beef, it helps to remember “if it’s round or loin its lean!” Some of America’s favorite cuts of beef are lean, including:

  • Top Sirloin steak
  • Tenderloin steak
  • 93% lean ground beef
  • Flank steak

By selecting cuts of beef from the loin or round you can be sure you are selecting the leanest cuts. For easy and delicious lean beef recipes, visit

Embrace Lean Beef

In summary, lean beef can be a vital part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It is a bioavailable source of protein bringing a unique set of important nutrients that are difficult to find in alternate sources. Lean beef can be enjoyed in moderation with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy as a part of a healthy diet.

Fast Facts: What Do IARC’s Findings on Red Meat and Cancer Mean for You?

1. Who is IARC?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer is an agency of the World Health Organization. The IARC’s mission is to review pre-existing research on cancer to determine potential causes and to evaluate the carcinogenicity of specific substances.

2: What does IARC do?

IARC evaluates substances and groups each into a category according to how “hazardous” they decide the substance may be. Hazard refers to the possibility to cause harm under any circumstances. IARC does not evaluate risk – the probability, possibility or likelihood to cause harm. When recommendations are made about important topics like diet and health, it’s necessary to consider hazard and risk together, to understand the complete story. Learn more about the difference between risks and hazard here.

  • IARC has evaluated more than 900 chemicals (e.g. formaldehyde), complex mixtures (e.g. air pollution), occupational exposures (e.g. carpentry), physical agents (e.g. sunlight), biological agents (e.g. hepatitis B virus), and personal habits (e.g. tobacco smoking), but does not specialize in food evaluation.

3: What exactly does IARC mean by red meat and processed meat?

  • According to IARC, red meat refers to “unprocessed mammalian muscle meat”—for example, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, or goat meat—including minced, ground or chopped meat or frozen meat; it is usually consumed cooked.
  • Processed meat refers to “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” In the U.S., processed meats, such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs and deli meats, primarily contain pork and poultry, but can contain beef as well.
  • It’s important to note that all production and processing methods pertaining to red and processed meat fall into these definitions including conventional, organic, grass-fed and nitrite- and nitrate-free meats, for example.

4: Am I increasing my risk of cancer by eating red meat?

IARC’s classification of red and processed meat as hazardous is based largely on observational studies of people consuming these foods in the context of an overall diet and weak positive associations with increased cancer. Cancer is a complex disease that develops as the result of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. It is impossible, given the nature of observational studies to isolate a single food from a complex dietary pattern and lifestyle. In fact, based on the available scientific evidence, single foods, including beef, haven’t been proven to cause any type of cancer. The strongest science supports a healthy and balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups. Research shows by far, the most important lifestyle factors to focus on are not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and staying physically active.

5: Is IARC recommending that I change how much red meat I’m eating?

No. Remember – IARC has not evaluated cancer risk (the probability, possibility or likelihood of carcinogenicity), only hazard (possibility of carcinogenicity under any circumstances). Evaluating if a certain intake level of meat is related to cancer risk was therefore not considered by IARC. In fact, the World Health Organization published clarification after questions and concerns stemmed from IARC’s report saying “the latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats.”

  • On average, Americans consume 5.1 oz (144 g) of protein foods each day (i.e., from meat, poultry, egg, fish/seafood, nuts, seeds and soy products). The Dietary Guidelines recommend at least 5.5 oz (155 g) of protein foods daily, so Americans are consuming protein foods, including red meat, within the Dietary Guidelines recommendations.

6: What does the science actually say?

Research has continuously shown that beef can and should be part of a healthy balanced diet. The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between any type of red or processed meat and any type of cancer. The observational studies in humans are limited, inconsistent and the evidence has weakened over time. The most logical rational for the weak positive associations that may be reported in observational studies is that these studies are more representative of overall diet and lifestyle patterns, i.e. confounded by diet and lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, low fruit and vegetable consumption and less physical activity, and less representative of any single food’s influence on cancer risk.

  • Take a look at the evidence that was submitted to IARC firsthand and learn more at

7: Should I choose organic beef as a safer alternative?

IARC did not distinguish between different types of production methods when considering red and processed meat. Regardless of your preference, all beef is safe and nutritious whether you choose to buy conventional, organic or grass-fed for example.

8: What about high heat cooking methods – does this mean I should stop grilling my beef?

You can still enjoy grilling meat (including beef) while limiting the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which are known or suspected carcinogens that are produced by cooking any meat. HAA and PAH formation can be greatly reduced by monitoring heat level and doneness temperature of meats, poultry and fish when cooking.

  • When cooking meat, use medium heat. High heat can overcook or char the outside of meat. If meat is charred, don’t eat the charred bits.
  • Do not grill over coals that are flaming to help avoid flare ups and charring.
  • Cooking methods that use low heat such as braising, stewing and poaching have been shown to produce negligible amounts of HAA.
  • Learn more about beef cooking temperatures.


Understanding the Evidence on Red Meat and Cancer Risk

For nearly 100 years, America’s farmers and ranchers have supported nutrition research to advance the understanding of beef’s role in a balanced and healthful diet, as part of our commitment to providing a wholesome, nutritious food to Americans. Part of that research has included commissioning scientific reviews of the existing evidence on red meat (including beef) and cancer risk. 

The Beef Checkoff and scientists who conducted these reviews recently submitted evidence for consideration in response to a call for data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). We invite you to review the evidence that was submitted to IARC firsthand and learn more at

Science Does Not Support International Agency Opinion on Red Meat and Cancer

Evidence Inadequate to Reach Consensus on Cancer Risk

DENVER (October 26, 2015) – An international committee assigned to review all of the available evidence on red meat and cancer risk were divided on their opinion whether to label red meat a “probable” cause of cancer, according to the Beef Checkoff nutrition scientist and registered dietitian who observed the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) process. After seven days of deliberation in Lyon, France, IARC was unable to reach a consensus agreement from a group of 22 experts in the field of cancer research, something that IARC has proudly highlighted they strive for and typically achieve. In this case, they had to settle for “majority” agreement.

“Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand,” says Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD. “Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer. The opinion by the IARC committee to list red meat as a probable carcinogen does not change that fact. The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between red or processed meat and any type of cancer.”

Most scientists agree that it is unrealistic to isolate a single food as a cause of cancer from a complex dietary pattern further confounded by lifestyle and environmental factors.

“As a registered dietitian and mother, my advice hasn’t changed. To improve all aspects of your health, eat a balanced diet, which includes lean meats like beef, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and, please don’t smoke,” says McNeill.

While IARC represents a select group of opinions, it doesn’t always represent consensus in the scientific community.

A large meta-analysis, published online in May in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, analyzed the relationship between red meat intake and risk for colorectal cancer and concluded “red meat does not appear to be an independent predictor of CRC risk,” according to Dominik Alexander, PhD, MSPH, the epidemiologist who conducted the research on behalf of the Beef Checkoff.

“There are a constellation of factors that are associated with the probability of getting cancer, which include age, genetics, socioeconomic characteristics, obesity, lack of physical activity, where you grew up, alcohol consumption, smoking and even your profession,” says Alexander. “The bottom line is the epidemiologic science on red meat consumption and cancer is best described as weak associations and an evidence base that has weakened over time. And most importantly, because red meat is consumed in the context of hundreds of other foods and is correlated with other behavioral factors, it is not valid to conclude red meat is an independent cause of cancer.”

According to Alexander, studies in nutritional epidemiology can be highly prone to bias such as self-reported dietary intake, for which habits may change over time. Because of this, associations reported in nutritional epidemiology may be surrounded by uncertainty. For instance, most, if not all, of the observational studies with red meat are limited by confounding factors; for example, studies have shown that people who consume the most red meat are the most likely to smoke, eat fewer fruits and vegetables and be overweight or obese – all of which may confound the relationship between eating red meat and risk of cancer.

Also, more recent studies in large cohorts are now finding either no association or non-significant findings between red meat and cancer. For example, a recent study out of Harvard using the well known The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and The Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) found unprocessed meat intake had an inverse association with distal colon cancer and a weak, statistically non-significant, positive association with risk of proximal colon cancer.

In addition, gold standard nutrition evidence, such as the Women’s Health Initiative and the Polyp Prevention Trial, two large, multi-year randomized controlled dietary interventions, found that a 20 percent reduction in red meat consumption did not reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and/or had no effect on adenoma recurrence in the large bowel. These studies were disregarded from the IARC review.

“Given the weak associations in human studies and lack of evidence in animal studies it is hard to reconcile the committee’s vote,” says nutritional toxicologist James Coughlin, PhD, CFS. “Of more than 900 items IARC has reviewed, including coffee, sunlight and night shift work, they have found only one ‘probably’ does not cause cancer according to their classification system.”

Coughlin, a toxicologist with more than 40 years of experience in meat and cancer, is critical of the IARC review process due to the lack of transparency, selective inclusion or exclusion of studies and broad interpretation of study results that are inconsistent with the conclusions of the study authors.

“In my experience as an observer to an IARC working group, the process typically involves scientists who have previously published research on the substance being reviewed and may have a vested interest in defending their own research” says Coughlin. “In the case of red and processed meat, the overall scientific evidence simply does not support their conclusion.”



Is Eating Meat Hazardous to Your Health?

We often see news headlines claiming that certain foods, such as red meat, may be “hazardous” to health. But what do headlines like “hazard” or “risk” really mean and what do you really need to know about them? Let’s decode what these headlines mean and explain the difference between a hazard and a risk.

Kung Pao Beef - a healthy beef meal

Red meat, including beef, is a nourishing food that plays an important role in a healthy diet.

What does “hazard” mean?

A hazard is a potential source of harm or adverse health effect on a person under any circumstance. We deal with hazards in our life every day by walking across busy streets, driving and playing sports. Hazards don’t tell you what the possibility or probability of harm is – they simply answer the question, “could, under any circumstances, this activity cause harm?” Water, a compound we need to survive, could be a hazard – but simply calling it a hazard doesn’t provide the context people need to reduce their likelihood of harm.

What does “risk” mean?

Risk is the likelihood that a person may be harmed or suffer adverse health effects if exposed to a hazard. So while a hazard classifies anything that could be a source of harm, the risk puts that hazard into perspective to help people understand the possible impact of being exposed to it. When recommendations are made about important topics like diet and health, it’s necessary to consider hazard and risk together, to understand the complete story.

Hazard vs Risk, Explained

In this video, Dr. Stuart Phillips explains the difference between a hazard and a risk when it comes to cancer research.


How is risk calculated?

In order to characterize risk, there are a variety of factors considered, including:

  • how often someone is exposed to a hazardous thing or condition
  • how someone is exposed – e.g. eating, drinking, breathing
  • the amount of the exposure

Risk also has to take into consideration “confounders.” These factors are variables which can distort the true risk. For example, in the summer months people eat more ice cream, but there are also more shark attacks. While both ice cream and shark attacks may be related to the summer months, they are not related to each other. They can be considered as confounders and their association leads to a false conclusion.

What do these risks mean for health recommendations?

To calculate risks when it comes to health, all of the available science has to be collected, analyzed and considered before ever making broad recommendations. The different types of studies reviewed are also important. One type of science often looked at is what is known as epidemiological research (or epi research, for short). Epidemiological studies look at populations to investigate potential associations (aka relative risks) between aspects of health (say heart disease or cancer) and diet, lifestyle, and demographics or other factors. Epidemiologic studies are observational in nature – meaning that they only identify associations and can be helpful in generating hypothesis but cannot prove cause and effect. Intervention studies, such as randomized control trials, are considered gold standard evidence because they can test cause and effect. There are several examples in nutrition where intervention studies have disproved hypotheses generated by observational studies.

Should we stop eating certain foods, such as red meat, if we see a headline saying that it’s hazardous to our health?

No—lean red meat, including beef, is a nourishing food that plays an important role in a healthy diet. It’s unrealistic to isolate a single food, including red meat, as a cause or a cure for any single disease. Our total health is determined by a number of factors, including things outside of our control such as age, genetics, socioeconomic characteristics, even where we grew up. Of the things we can control, research shows, the most important factors to focus on are not to smoke, to maintain a healthy body weight, to stay physically active and to eat a healthy, balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods in moderation. And most people eat nutrient-rich beef in moderation already: Americans consume 1.7 ounces of beef daily, on average, and today’s leaner beef offers people the flavor they crave and the nutrition they need.

What does this all mean for you?

Nutrition is complicated and we love to talk about it. But it’s not easy to explain the complexity of food and health in a headline or a tweet. If you have questions about what you should be eating as part of an overall healthy lifestyle in order to decrease your risk of chronic disease, the best advice is to follow a balanced diet and visit with your doctor, registered dietitian or other healthcare professional who can develop an overall healthy lifestyle plan that’s right for you.

Is Cooking Meat at High Heat Healthy? Learn More.

We’ve all read recipes that call for meats like beef to be cooked at a “high” heat – like grilling and barbecuing. But what does cooking beef at a high temperature mean for your health? And does it impact the experience of your meal? Food science can be complicated, even when you’re following the simplest of recipes, so we’re breaking down the science of beef cooking temperatures for you to make sure you have the best eating experience.

Grecian beef steak meal

The best recommendation for preparing steaks and roasts is to set your appliances on medium heat for delicious beef meals.

Cooking at high heat and what it means

A common term often heard when referring to cooking steaks, roasts, burgers and stir fry is “high heat.” Whether you’re watching a cooking show, reading an article with a quote from a well-known chef or even talking with a passionate home cook, you usually hear something about a “smoking hot skillet (or grill) to get a good sear (or crust).”

When it comes to evenly cooked steaks and roasts, and your health, the best recommendation should be to have your appliances on MEDIUM heat levels, whether you’re oven roasting, grilling or pan roasting.

Let’s take a moment to review the definitions of different cooking temperatures (not doneness, which we’ll get into in a moment).


Temperature category Actual temp (°F) of your appliance
Low 250° – 300°
Medium Low 300° – 350°
Medium 350° – 400°
Medium High 400° – 450°
High 450° – 500°


If you’re grilling and don’t have a thermometer on your grill, we like this handy guide from Real Simple. You can perform the “hand test” to make sure your grill is at a medium heat by holding your open palm 3 inches above the grill grate – you should be able to keep it there for 4 to 5 seconds. If you can’t keep it there for 4 to 5 seconds, the grill may be at too high of a temperature.

Why go medium?

While cooking on “high” or over a “searing hot skillet” may be recommended by some professional chefs, for the home cook, the result is often food that is charred on the outside and raw on the inside. Or completely overcooked all around. Cooking on medium heat will help ensure a great eating experience.

Heat has a general property of allowing chemicals to change from one form to another. You see this happen whenever you cook an egg — the heat changes the proteins in the egg and solidifies them. In the case of meat, high temperatures can convert things like fat in the meat into substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and the charred exterior of the meat (or the inside, if you’re eating it extremely well-done) can convert into something called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs). These compounds aren’t unique to red meat s like, pork or beef, —they can also be formed when cooking chicken and fish at high heat temperatures too.

To avoid these compounds and potentially over- or under-cooked meats, choose medium heat levels. You’ll still get that nice caramelization (or browning) which adds lovely flavors to your beef. But you’ll also get a steak, roast, burger or stir-fry that’s still juicy, tender and cooked to perfection. And if you happen to get any char on your beef, trim it off before serving.

Now, when it comes to internal doneness and USDA’s proper internal cooking temperatures, this graphic can be a helpful resource. Use this guide to cook beef to your desired doneness, while avoiding cooking beyond well done to limit PAH and HAA formation. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate results.

Hungry after all that talk about perfectly cooked meat? Get some great grilling recipes on, all of which have been triple-tested on medium heat and are guaranteed to have delicious results, especially these kabobs or this burger.

America’s Beef Supply Has Evolved

The internet is flooded with trendy diets, weight-loss programs and conflicting advice on what a healthy lifestyle is – often leaving individuals confused about what is “good” and “bad” to eat. A healthy diet is important to achieve and maintain for optimal health; everyone has different dietary and nutritional needs, so no single diet is one size fits all. Fortunately, ongoing research provides Americans with new information about nutritious, lean food options that support a healthy diet – no matter how they choose to eat.

The food supply is dynamic
Dietary habits vary across the United States, but for many Americans there are a number of food choices available. Not every individual has the same dietary preferences and nutritional needs. In order to ensure accurate, and up-to-date nutritional data is available, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR) exists. The SR serves as the foundation for food and nutrition research, policy and practice; tasked with keeping data current and correct.  This information can be valuable to individuals who maintain or want to adopt a nutritious, healthy diet.

Sirloin steak in 1960 vs 2013

The sirloin steak has evolved over the past several decades

Consumers demand lean beef

Nutritious foods are high in demand. Americans consume 1.7 ounces of beef daily, on average, so today’s leaner beef offers consumers the flavor they crave and the nutrition they need all in one delicious package. Supplying consumers with leaner beef that simultaneously delivers on nutrition, flavor, safety and convenience is the result of a successful collaboration spanning at least four decades.

This effort involves the entire beef supply chain, starting with America’s cattle farmers and ranchers who raise leaner animals, packers and processors who closely trim beef cuts and finally supermarkets and restaurants, offering a growing number of lean beef cuts to consumers. Changes in cattle breeding and management coupled with extensive trimming of visible fat from retail cuts have resulted in the wide-spread availability of lean beef to U.S. consumers. All of these efforts originated with consumers’ demand for leaner beef and offer evidence that America’s beef community is committed to accommodating consumers’ health needs and responding to public health guidance.

Chart depicting the increase in lean cuts of beef

The number of cuts that meet USDA guidelines for lean has increased over the past several years

A healthy diet with lean beef

Today, 65% of the beef cuts sold in U.S. meatcases is lean and there are 38 cuts of lean beef for consumers to enjoy. These cuts offer consumers more beef options suited to their needs for nutrition, flavor and cooking methods of choice and convenience. Whether you prefer an easy steak wrap on the go, or beef stir-fry with the family, there are plenty of lean beef options to fit into your personal diet. Americans are able to enjoy a variety of lean beef and other health food options, thanks to farmers, ranchers, packers, processors, researchers, nutrition professionals and even consumers who have worked together to help shape the evolution of today’s lean beef.

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