What Part Of The Cow Is Ground Beef From (& Why It Matters)

I guarantee you most people simply cook ground beef, completely unknowing of what cut of beef it actually came from.

And look. I’ll be frank with you. It’s not essential knowledge to possess for the average person. 

But, for those that want to lift their cooking game to the next level, or for those that are merely curious, knowing what part of the cow ground beef actually comes from can be of huge benefit.

Here’s what part of the cow ground beef comes from, the different types of ground beef that you can come across, and why it matters.

To chefs, home cooks, and meat lovers, it’s valuable to know what cut of beef was used to make the ground beef you’re working with.

This is because each type comes with its own texture, flavor, and fat-to-protein ratio, all of which can influence the end result of the cook.

Ground beef can be made from trimmings of many parts of the cow or from just a single cut.

The most popular and most common cuts that are used for ground beef are chuck, round, and sirloin. 

From this perspective, ground beef can come from the shoulder, hindquarters, or back of the cow, in the form of ground chuck, ground round, and ground sirloin respectively.

Here’s a look at all the most popular cuts of beef for making ground beef.

Ground Chuck

When you’re shopping for ground beef at your local grocery or butcher, the most common type you’ll come across is ground chuck.

Ground chuck comes from the chuck primal cut of beef, which is on the front portion of the cattle.

To be more specific, the chuck extends from the base of the cow’s neck down to its fifth rib. 

Ground chuck is a classic choice for making hamburgers, meatballs, or even bolognese.

Ground Round

One other common ground beef comes from the round of the cow, known as ground round. 

This type of ground beef comes from the rear side of the cattle–sitting between the upper leg and the rump.

It’s classically a much lower fat content and is a more popular pick for those making low-calorie meals – but it’s my personal favorite for enchiladas, burritos, or other Mexican dishes.

Ground Sirloin

Typically, sirloin is one of the leanest parts of the cow – especially the prized tenderloin.

However, ground sirloin is normally sourced from the lower-most part of the sirloin, sometimes referred to as top sirloin.

Top sirloin sits in front of the round, but before the ribs.

Ground sirloin is usually made up to 10% or 5% fat, compared to others ranging from 10-30% fat!

Ground Brisket

You may be familiar with the classic barbecue dish smoked brisket. 

It’s from this very same cut that ground brisket is made, coming from the front, chest area of the cow.

Brisket contains a high amount of fat and connective tissue and really packs a deliciously beefy flavor. For this reason, it’s so loved as ground beef too – and is especially good for making the tastiest burger patties.

Ground Plate & Flank

The flank and the plate are both boneless cuts from the underside of the cattle. You can locate the flank portion right below the loin while the plate rests under the ribs.

Both of these cuts produce different kinds of steaks, but can also be used to make ground beef. It’s much rarer to find ground beef made of just plate or just flank, but both cuts are much more commonly used in addition to other cuts.

Why It Matters?

To some, ground beef is just ground beef.

But, for those looking to get the most out of their ground beef, the cut of beef it comes from – as well as the fat content – can make all the difference.

The type of ground beef you’re dealing with can make a huge effect on the flavor, texture, and taste of the meat. 

Here’s why it matters what part of the cow your ground beef is made from.

Fat Content

Ground beef comes in a variety of fat-to-protein ratios. Generally speaking, you’ll find ground beef labeled 10% lean, 20% lean, or even 30% lean. This refers to the percentage of fat content within the ground beef.

For example 10% lean ground beef means it contains 10% fat and 90% protein.

The fat content within the ground beef plays a huge part in its overall flavor AND how it cooks. The more fat within the ground beef, the more liquid will form as you cook from the melting of the fat.

What you’ll find is ground chuck and ground brisket are more likely to be 20% lean, and ground round and ground sirloin to be 10% or even 5% lean.


Similar to how different types of ground beef contain different fat contents, they also contain different flavors.

Sure, part of this flavor does indeed come from the fat content, but there are also different savory flavors coming from the different cuts of beef!

I’m not going to go into explicit, scientific detail. But all types of ground beef can taste great in their own ways!


The type of cut of the ground beef also impacts the texture of the meat.

This goes hand-in-hand with the fat content of the ground beef too.

Generally, leaner ground beef can more easily become chewy or rubbery, as it can dry out and overcooks more easily than fattier ground beef.

But, fattier ground beef can remain chewy too if it’s not cooked for long enough!

Note: Do not wash your ground beef. Not only can it ruin the texture of the meat but it can also cause cross-contamination in your kitchen!


The last factor to consider is the cost of the ground beef.

Leaner ground beef coming from the more expensive cuts of beef will generally be quite a bit more pricey than the more common, fattier cuts.

For example, 5% ground sirloin can often be double the price of 30% ground chuck.

So, unless you have a need for a specifically lean ground beef, you can actually save a bit of dough and go with a fattier cut. This can be especially important if you’re cooking ground beef for a large crowd!

How Is Ground Beef Made?

Keeping things absolutely simple, ground beef is simply tiny chunks of larger cuts of beef, broken down and minced or “ground” in a machine.

This machine, known as a meat grinder, uses a combination of a cross-shaped blade and a rotating plate to grind down larger parts of meats.

The fat and the protein are pressed, cut, and forced through small holes in the end of the machine.

The result: the ground beef we know and love.

Quick Recap

Long story short, you can make ground beef from any cut of beef, whether it’s lean, fatty, low-cost, or expensive.

However, what you’ll normally find at the grocery or butcher is ground chuck, ground round, and ground sirloin.

Although they are all considered ground beef, each comes with a slightly different taste, texture, fat content, and cost!

Understanding what cut of beef went into your ground beef, and the subsequent fat-to-protein ratio in it, can help you develop the flavor, texture, and taste you’re looking for!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *