All About Beef

beef and vegetable kebabs

Canadian beef is nutritious, of high quality and safe to eat.  Choosing lean, quality beef can be part of healthy eating. Read on to learn how to choose quality beef products and how to store and prepare beef properly.

Beef is nutritious

Beef naturally contains 14 essential nutrients that help keep your body healthy and strong. One serving (75 grams or 2.5 ounces) of beef provides you with an excellent source of high quality protein, zinc and vitamin B12. Beef is one of the richest natural animal sources of vitamin B12.  Choosing leaner varieties and cuts of beef are healthy food choices.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings of Meat and Alternatives every day for adults. Lean or extra lean beef are good choices in meeting this recommendation. 

Keeping it safe with beef

Canadian beef products are among the safest in the world.  Here we’ll clear up potential health safety concerns with eating beef.

E.Coli/Hamburger Disease

E.Coli contamination in beef occurs during the slaughtering and processing of cattle.  Contamination is most likely with ground beef. This is why E.Coli contamination is also referred to as “Hamburger Disease”.  Proper storage and cooking of beef to the correct internal temperatures will limit E.Coli contamination. 

BSE/Mad Cow Disease

BSE or “Mad Cow Disease” is a fatal disease that attacks the cattle’s nervous system. If humans eat contaminated beef that is infected with BSE there is a high risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a fatal disease that affects the brain and nervous system.  CJD is very rare.   

Unlike E.Coli contamination, simply cooking meat infected with BSE cannot reduce contamination. Canada, along with many other countries, follows strict guidelines to protect the safety of cattle against BSE.

Growth Hormones

Growth hormones help create leaner cattle at a lower cost for consumers. Growth hormones are approved for use in Canada. There has been no evidence to date that has shown that animals treated with growth hormones are a threat to human health.

Look for quality beef

When choosing beef, look for the Quality Grade. In Canada, there are four high quality grades of beef to choose from: A, AA, AAA and Prime. The main difference between the four grades is the amount of marbling.  Marbling is the amount of white flecks (the fat) that runs through the lean meat.  Marbling makes the meat juicy and flavourful. A cut of meat with an ‘A’ grading has the least marbling and Prime cuts have the most.

The colour of the beef does not necessarily indicate how fresh it is. Beef is naturally a burgundy or purple colour. After it has been exposed to air, beef can become a bright red or cherry colour.   Beef that has turned brown in colour, has an off-odour, or is sticky when touched may be spoiled. Use the “packaged on” or “best before date” as a sign of freshness.

Store and prepare beef properly

Proper storage and cooking of beef products at appropriate temperatures will destroy bacteria before it is consumed. 

Beef can be stored safely in the refrigerator or freezer.  Use this chart to remember how long you can store fresh, ground and cooked beef: 

Refrigerator 4°C (40°F) or cooler Freezer -18°C (0°F)
Fresh Beef (steaks, roasts, pot roasts) 3-4 days 6-12 months
Fresh ground meat 1-2 days 3-4 months
Leftovers 3-4 days 2-3 months

Eating beef that is cooked rare or medium-rare is safe to eat as long as the internal temperature reaches at least 60ºC (140ºF). Ground beef, however, should never be eaten rare. Use the chart below to remember these important internal cooking temperatures:

Fresh Beef (steaks, roasts, pot roasts) •  Rare 60° (140°F)
•  Medium 71° (160°F)
•  Well-Done 77° (170°F)
Ground Meat 71° (160°)

* Using a food thermometer will tell you when your dish is cooked to the right temperature so that it is safe to eat.

Bacteria can grow quickly in the danger zone between 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F) so keep hot foods at or above 60ºC (140°F).

Cooking with beef

Beef can be enjoyed in so many different and tasty ways. Here are some tips in selecting and preparing beef:

  • Tenderloin, Rib Eye, Prime Rib, Strip Loin, Rib, Top Sirloin are the most tender cuts of beef - great for grilling, braising, barbequing or roasting.
  • Use a slow cooker or marinate tougher cuts of meat to make them tender and bring out flavour.  Try less expensive Chuck, Flank Steak, Blade Simmering Steak and Bottom Roasts.
  • Oven roasting requires little time and effort to prepare. It is perfect for entertaining.  Season the meat lightly with pepper, garlic or parsley and place it in the oven to roast. No tending to it while it cooks is required!
  • Searing (quickly browning beef at high heat) before cooking through is a great way to seal in flavour.
  • Let a covered roast sit for 10 minutes before carving or slicing to let juices settle.

Be sure to try some of these healthy and tasty beef recipes:

Chili Casserole with Polenta

Green Meatballs (great for kids!)

Slow Cooked Oven-Braised Beef with Carrots, Foodland Ontario

Last Update – February 27, 2019

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