Are Beef Burgers Processed Meat? (Explained By Experts)

Are you a burger lover? Do you often wonder if your favorite beef burgers are considered processed meat?

With all the recent buzz about the health risks associated with processed meat, it’s important to know what exactly falls under this category. While some types of meat are clearly labeled as processed, such as bacon and hot dogs, it can be confusing to determine if your beloved burgers fall into this category.

In this article, we’ll explore the definition of processed meat and whether or not beef burgers fit the bill. So, let’s dive in and find out if your go-to burger joint is serving up processed meat patties.

Are Beef Burgers Processed Meat?

The short answer is no, beef burgers are not considered processed meat. According to registered dietitians, Andrea Goergen and Lacey Dunn, ground beef or pork is not considered processed as long as it hasn’t been subjected to additives or alterations.

While burgers may be altered from their original shape and form, they have not had additional preservatives or nitrates added to them. This means that fresh beef or steak, even fresh lamb, is not considered processed meat.

However, it’s important to note that store-bought burgers or meatballs may fall under the processed meat category due to the extra ingredients included in them. It’s always a good idea to read the label and check for any added preservatives or fillers.

What Is Processed Meat?

Processed meat refers to any meat that has been modified in some way to enhance its flavor or extend its shelf life. This can include methods such as salting, curing, fermenting, smoking, and the addition of chemical preservatives. Common examples of processed meats include deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, sausages, beef jerky, and pepperoni.

When meat is processed, it undergoes a transformation that can increase the risk of cancer. This is because during the processing of meat, cancer-causing substances such as nitrates and nitrites can form. These substances can damage the cells in the colon and rectum over time, leading to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

It’s important to note that not all meat is considered processed. Meat that has been frozen or undergone mechanical processing like cutting and slicing is still considered unprocessed. For example, ground beef or pork is not considered processed as long as it hasn’t been subjected to additives or alterations.

In general, it’s recommended to limit your intake of processed meats as much as possible to reduce your risk of cancer. Opting for fresh cuts of meat or plant-based alternatives can help you maintain a healthy diet while minimizing your exposure to harmful substances.

Examples Of Processed Meat

Processed meat refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it through salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. Examples of processed meat include ham, sausage, bacon, deli meats (such as bologna, smoked turkey and salami), hot dogs, jerky, pepperoni and even sauces made with those products. These meats have been altered from their original form and have had additional preservatives or nitrates added to them. When these processed meats are preserved, cancer-causing substances can form. Evidence has been accumulating over the years that links processed meats to colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even early death. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” and recommends avoiding them as much as possible. It’s always a good idea to read the label and check for any added preservatives or fillers before consuming any processed meat products.

Health Risks Associated With Processed Meat

Processed meat, such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, and canned meat, has been linked to various health risks by experts. Studies have found that processed meat consumption increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The World Health Organization has classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans,” with just one hot dog or a few strips of bacon consumed daily increasing cancer risk by 18%. Processed meat also increases the risk of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and overall cancer mortality.

Processed meat is also linked to cardiovascular disease and death. A study found that people eating more than 150 grams of processed meat per week increased their risk of heart disease and death by 46% and 51%, respectively, when compared to those who did not eat processed meat. Additionally, consuming the most processed meat has been associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Livestock production, particularly ruminant animals used for meat production, contributes the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the agricultural sector. This leads to environmental degradation by means of fertilizer run-off, deforestation, and desertification.

How To Make Healthier Burger Choices

When it comes to making healthier burger choices, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, consider the fat content of the ground beef you choose. While fat can add flavor and juiciness to your burger, it’s important to limit your intake of saturated fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Registered dietitian Shena Jaramillo recommends opting for lean beef with a fat content of 90 to 95 percent. This will not only reduce your intake of saturated fat but also lower the calorie count of your burger. If you prefer a higher-fat content, consider mixing lean ground beef with a small amount of heart-healthy fat like olive oil.

Another way to make your burger healthier is to load up on vegetables. Pile on toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, and peppers to add bulk and fiber without adding many calories. You can also swap out high-calorie toppings like cheese and bacon for sliced avocado or a thin layer of BBQ sauce.

When it comes to cooking your burger, be mindful not to overcook it. Overcooking can lead to dry burgers, which are less enjoyable to eat. Use a food thermometer to ensure that your burger is cooked to a safe temperature without being overdone. And whatever you do, resist the urge to press down on your burger while it’s cooking – this will only cause the juices to escape and make your burger dry.

Finally, consider the size of your burger. Making smaller patties and piling on more veggies is a great way to reduce the calorie count while still enjoying a satisfying meal. And if you’re serving a crowd, consider making your burger patties in advance so you can focus on grilling and entertaining when it’s time to eat.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy a delicious and satisfying burger without compromising your health goals.