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Understanding Lean Ground Beef Percentages

What do the percentages (such as "90% lean") on ground beef packages mean? How can I use this information?
Understanding Lean Ground Beef Percentages

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Ground beef primarily is made of lean protein and fat. You might see "80% lean," "90% lean," or "93% lean" on ground beef packages. "Extra lean" ground beef is at least 90 percent lean protein by weight.

As shown below, a 3-ounch serving of 90% extra-lean ground beef has less fat, more protein and fewer calories per serving than 80% lean ground beef. The amount of iron and zinc is slightly higher in leaner ground beef.

Nutrition Composition of a 3-ounce Serving of Ground Beef*

Type of ground beef*Fat (g)Protein (g)CaloriesIron (mg)Zinc (mg)

90% extra lean

9.1 21.4 173 2.4 5.4
85% lean 11.9 20.9 197 2.3 5.3
80% lean 13.6 20.4 209 2.2 5.2
* Based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database for 3-ounce (85-gram) pan-broiled ground beef patties.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

Featured in Food Wise March 2014 newsletter (PDF)

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