Are Beef Burgers Considered Processed Meat? The Answer May Surprise You

Beef burgers have long been a staple of the American diet. Nothing beats throwing a juicy burger on the grill on a summer day. But with recent concerns over the health effects of processed meats, many people are wondering – are beef burgers processed? The answer is more complicated than you might think.

What is Processed Meat?

First, let’s clarify what is meant by “processed meat.” According to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meats are:

“Meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”

This includes hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat-based preparations and sauces, and even bacon.

Essentially, any meat that has been modified from its natural raw state is considered “processed.” Processed meats also tend to be high in sodium and nitrates, which are used as preservatives.

The Health Risks of Processed Meats

In 2015, the WHO made big news when its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans.” This means there is sufficient evidence that processed meats can cause cancer in humans

Specifically, studies have found links between consumption of processed meats and increased risk of colorectal, stomach, and pancreatic cancers Experts believe this is due to cancer-causing compounds like nitrites, heme iron, and heterocyclic amines that are formed during meat processing

The IARC report concluded that eating 50g of processed meat daily (about 2 slices of deli meat or 1 hot dog) increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. At 100g daily, the risk goes up by 36%.

This doesn’t mean processed meats will definitely give you cancer. But there does appear to be a correlation between high intake and increased cancer risk over time.

Are Burger Patties Processed?

Now back to the original question – do beef burgers count as processed meat? There are a few factors to consider:

How the Meat is Handled

  • Ground beef – Meat that is freshly ground at the store or at home is not processed. Simple grinding does not constitute “processing.” So plain ground beef patties are not processed.

  • Pre-formed patties – Beef patties made from pre-ground meat and formed into patties are also not processed, as long as no extra ingredients are added. This applies to patties made at home or those formed freshly in-store.

  • Flash frozen patties – Burgers that are flash frozen for storage and transport typically do not contain any additives. These are also not considered processed.

So in their pure ground beef form, burger patties are generally not processed. But there are some exceptions:

Meat Preservation

  • Cured meats – Some mass-produced frozen patties are made with cured, salted, or smoked meat for preservation. These would qualify as processed.

  • Beef crumbles – Pre-cooked burger crumbles also usually contain curing agents. These are processed too.

Added Ingredients

  • Fillers and binders – Many commercial burger patties contain fillers like breadcrumbs or binders like eggs or starch to hold them together. Burgers with significant additives are processed.

  • Seasonings – Patties seasoned with anything more than salt and pepper are considered processed. Think garlic pepper burgers or patties with onion and herb mixes.

  • Bacon-wrapped – Bacon-wrapped burgers count as processed due to the bacon.

  • Plain ground beef or simply formed patties = not processed
  • Pre-formed patties with minimal ingredients = not processed
  • Frozen patties with curing agents or significant additives = processed

Minimizing Risk from Burgers

The WHO classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic” as well. So even plain beef still carries some degree of risk. Here are some tips for minimizing risk when eating burgers:

  • Choose plain freshly ground beef or patties with minimal ingredients
  • Limit portions to no more than 4oz cooked weight
  • Avoid charring. Cook burgers thoroughly but not over high, direct heat.
  • Limit intake to no more than 2-3 times per week
  • Load up on veggie toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion
  • Opt for a whole grain bun and skip the cheese
  • Choose chicken or plant-based patties when possible

One burger now and then likely won’t do much harm. But processed varieties should be limited, and overdoing even fresh beef burgers may be risky. As with most things in nutrition, moderation is key.

The Bottom Line

So are burgers processed meat? As long as they are made of plain ground beef with minimal other ingredients, they are generally not considered processed. Pre-formed patties from the store can be fine too. But mass-produced frozen burgers with preservatives, fillers, and seasonings do qualify as processed meat.

To stay healthy, your best bet is making burgers at home from fresh ground beef. And be mindful of overdoing even fresh beef burgers. But the occasional backyard barbecue featuring pure beef burgers on the grill can absolutely be part of a balanced diet.

Highly Processed Meat Danger? It’s not what you think…


Are hamburgers considered processed meat?

What is processed meat? While many people think of processed meat as chow that has gone through some kind of mechanical process – like when beef is put into a grinder to be turned into hamburger meat – that isn’t actually the case. “When fresh, ground beef or chicken is not considered processed meat,” explains Dr.

What meat is not processed?

Fresh chicken, turkey, beef, pork and fish that have not been modified are considered unprocessed meats.

Is beef burger meat healthy?

Though burgers provide protein and other nutrients, they’re not seen as a healthy food option. That’s because they’re high in saturated fat and cholesterol. They’re also often bundled with sodas and french fries, which contain large amounts of sugar and saturated fats.

Are frozen beef patties processed meat?

On the other hand, meat that has been frozen or undergone mechanical processing like cutting and slicing is still considered unprocessed. Bottom Line: All meat that has been smoked, salted, cured, dried or canned is considered processed. This includes sausages, hot dogs, salami, ham and cured bacon.

Is burger meat processed?

“Hamburger meat is not considered processed,” says Lacey Dunn, a registered dietitian and author of The Women’s Guide to Hormonal Harmony. “Though it has been altered from its original shape and form, it has not had additional preservatives or nitrates added to it.” (Try these vegan burgers everyone will love.)

Is processed sandwich meat an organ meat?

It’s hard to say because there are many different types of processed meats for saduiches, such as ham, mortadella, turkey breast. They can have different preparations depending on the brand, so it’s hard to say without looking at the label. Always read the list of ingredients on the label to be sure.

Is fresh beef considered processed?

On the other hand, fresh beef or steak—or even fresh lamb—is not considered processed. “Ground beef and pork are not actually considered processed as long as they haven’t been subjected to additives or alterations,” says Andrea Goergen, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Cultivate Healthy in Washington, D.C.

What is processed meat?

A processed meat, according to the panel, has been modified from its natural state, either “through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.” This includes sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, lunch meats and bacon.

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