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Here’s What Can Go in Your Hamburger

February 3, 2017, 3:21 PM UTC
Organic homemade minced meat on craft paper
Organic homemade minced meat on craft paper ready to prepare burger or meatballs, top view
istetiana Getty Images

Beef producers are permitted to use certain parts of a cow’s heart that are deemed as “beef heart meat” in hamburger.

The rule goes back to the definition set forth by Congress in the Federal Meat Inspection Act going back to 1906.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service defines beef heart meat as “cardiac muscle trimmed from the ventricular wall of a beef heart.”

By contrast, the USDA defines “beef heart” as “any portion of the heart cap (i.e., efferent and afferent vessels, pericardial fat, atria, and auricles cranial to the atrio-ventricular septum and clearly demarcated from the ventricular portion of the heart by the coronary band).” And beef heart—as opposed to beef heart meat—is not permitted as a component of “chopped beef, ground beef, or hamburger.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service had changed its policy regarding which parts of a cow’s heart are allowed to be included in chopped beef, ground beef, or hamburger. The USDA’s policy regarding components has remained the same since the rules were first enacted in 1906.