If you’re picking up meats at the grocery store, you may notice there are different packages of fresh ground beef at the meat counter.
In particular, you may see traditional packaging, vacuum-sealed packaging, modified atmosphere packaging, and ground beef in the tube. You may wonder why is ground beef in the tube cheaper?
Unlike the other packaging styles, this packaging material and method is inexpensive. That said, you may still wonder if this impacts its quality, freshness, and shelf life.
What Is in a Ground Beef Tube?
When consumers notice fresh, meat products that are significantly cheaper than other meat products, it is natural to assume that the cut of meat is low quality, mixed with other cheaper meats, or mixed with fillers.
Most ground beef (and ground turkey, ground chicken, etc) in tubes, also called ground beef chub, is 100% beef, although you can check the ingredients list to make sure they did not add breadcrumbs or a starch.
It may also have a label on the front indicating it has no fillers or additives. If there are fillers, it is typically a package of pre-made hamburger mixture rather than a ground beef tube.
What Is the Difference Between Ground Beef and Ground Beef Chub?
There is no difference between ground beef meat and ground beef chub. Similar to other packages of ground beef, the beef is ground up, tough cuts of beef.
This may be round, chuck, sirloin, or a mixture of the three. There are no additives such as water, extenders, or binders, although there may be preservatives depending on the brand.
Typically, ground beef tubes come in extra lean, lean, medium, or regular lean ground beef similar to other packaged ground beef.
Is Ground Beef in a Tube Any Good?
If you are looking at a cheaper option for meat, you may wonder if it is just as good tasting as regular ground beef.
Since ground beef in a tube is a similar cut or mixture of beef, as well as packaged and stored properly, you can expect it to be just as good and just as versatile as ground beef in a package. It’s how ground beef would be packaged if you got an entire side or whole cow.
If you are looking for the most flavorful, juicy, and tender ground beef, you should follow the same rule as regular ground beef: choose high fat content (this is how places like Five Guys have such juicy burgers). For the best flavor, choose medium or regular ground beef in a tube.
Ground Beef in a Tube vs Package
If ground beef in a tube and in packages are the exact same beef, then why is ground beef in the tube cheaper? There is one major difference between the two, the packaging:
- Traditional Packaging: The butcher places freshly ground beef on a foam tray and covers it with polyethylene cling wrap. This kind of wrap allows oxygen to reach the meat, ensuring it maintains a bright red or bright pink coloring for a few days. Since consumers can see the beef and the attractive coloring, they usually purchase this type of ground beef. But it’s not the coloring that will make a good burger patty or beef jerky.
- Modified-Atmosphere Packaging: They seal the meat tightly, vacuum out the air, and replace it with purified air. The attractive cherry coloring remains but this kind of packaging has a longer shelf life.
- Vacuum-Sealed Packaging: Similar to modified-atmosphere packaging, they vacuum out the air but do not replace it. This darkens the color of the meat but extends the shelf-life significantly.
- Ground Beef in a Tube: They place the ground beef in the packaging, tie it at each end, and vacuum seal the package. The meat may change color, but the consumer is not able to see the coloring, which usually turns dark purple.
Overall, the packaging difference affects the shelf life and the color of the meat. These are major differences between ground beef in a tube and the other types of packaged ground beef.
Why Is Meat in a Tube Cheaper?
Ground meat in a tube is cheaper than other packaged ground beef (or turkey) because of the inexpensive packaging material and method.
While other types of packaging, even traditional packaging, use multiple types of materials, chub packaging only requires one portion of packaging and clips.
Additionally, the packaging method is very efficient. As Robert B. Miller writes, the machine “forces the ground beef into a cylindrical, heat-sealable film, seals the ends of the film with metal clips (applied two at a time) and simultaneously cuts the film between the clips.”
The process is precise and quick. In contrast, some packaging methods, such as the modified-atmosphere packaging, may require multiple steps.
Furthermore, other types of packaging offer a limited shelf life. Typically, the ground beef will only last a couple of days before the meat starts changing color or becoming rancid.
Since grocery stores and meat markets have longer amounts of time to sell ground beef in a tube, this may contribute to the lower price as well. Naturally, supply and demand may also factor into the prices of products.
Consumers prefer selecting and purchasing ground beef with a bright cherry red color. With ground beef in the tube, the meat is not viewable. This may lead to less demand for ground beef, which contributes to the low price.
Why Is Frozen Ground Beef Cheaper?
You must move traditional packaged and modified-atmosphere packaged beef to airtight, sealed packages before freezing. Since air can reach the ground beef in either case, it can easily obtain freezer burn, like shrimp or ice cream, without this extra step.
However, a chub of ground beef can freeze as is. In fact, some providers sell it frozen because it transports easily frozen, they do not need to worry about spoilage, and they can keep it for a long shelf-life.
How Long Does Ground Beef in a Tube Last?
Bulk chub, reground in the store with an industrial meat grinder, lasts up to 20 days while case ready chub lasts up to 23 days as long as stored in a fridge. Additionally, unopened packages of ground beef chub can stay in the freezer for up to six months.
In comparison with other types of packaged ground beef, ground beef in a tube has one of the longest shelf lives. Modified-atmosphere packaging only has a shelf-life of 11 days, whereas traditionally packaged ground beef only lasts a few days.
You must transfer ground beef to sealed, air-tight packages in order to freeze them.
Why Buy Ground Beef in the Tube?
There are many reasons to buy ground beef in the tube over other types of packaged ground beef. A few of the most prominent advantages are:
- Size Options: Much like traditionally packaged ground beef, you can select certain amounts of ground beef in the tube. Typically, they come in 1, 2-, 3-, 5-, or 10-pound amounts.
- Economical: As meat prices rise, consumers are looking for cheaper options. Since you do not need to sacrifice value, you may find ground beef in the tube is a better option given the lower prices.
- Space Saver: The conforming, cylindrical shape of packaged chub beef allows for easy storage in your fridge or freezer.
- Helpful Packaging: Similar to some butter packaging, tubes of ground beef indicate portions on the outside. Since this is the case, you can easily cut the meat into sections.
- Shelf Life: Saving money is easy with ground beef chub; you do not need to throw away wasted meat if you do not use it within a few days. It lasts up to 3 weeks in your fridge.
- Freezer Ready: Stocking up on large amounts of ground beef is easy, as you can effortlessly store this packaged meat as soon as you get home. You do not need to waste time or energy repacking it.
Of course, you cannot forget that ground beef chub is the perfect addition to almost any meal. Whether you are making hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf, spaghetti sauces, tacos, chili, or sloppy joes, it is an excellent choice.
In fact, it is unlikely anyone will be able to tell the difference between ground meat in a tube and regularly packaged ground beef once it has been cooked, browned and seasoned to perfection. It’ll just be your special cooking secret!
Featured Image Credit – “09-jul-10” by sashafatcat is marked with CC BY 2.0.