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Beef Grinding Records Kept by Retail Stores

This page shows the study purpose, method, results, conclusions, and recommendations in plain language for the EHS-Net project titled Beef Grinding Logs Study.

The findings and recommendations from this project are also in fact sheet format [PDF - 279 KB].

Citations for more EHS-Net publications are available by Study Topic or by Citation.

Photo of 2 restaurant employees reviewing records.

Study Problem

Contaminated ground beef at retail stores like grocery stores can cause foodborne illness outbreaks. To stop further illness and outbreaks, we need to find the source of any ground beef that causes outbreaks. To do this, retail stores must keep good records on where the beef in each batch of ground beef came from. We must learn more about how retail stores keep records on beef grinding. This can help us find ways to make these practices better.

Study Purpose

This study described how retail stores kept records on beef grinding.

Study Findings in Brief

EHS-Net found that most retail stores do not keep records on beef grinding. Without complete records, we cannot find out where contaminated ground beef came from. (This is called a traceback investigation.)

Study Method


We collected data at 125 retail stores in three EHS-Net sites (California, Minnesota, and Tennessee).

Data Collection

State and local environmental health specialists gathered data during routine food safety inspections. We talked to a manager or worker in each store. We asked about the store’s logs (records) on beef grinding.

In stores that kept beef grinding logs, we looked at recent logs to find out what was being written down.

We also asked about beef leftovers (trimmings) used in ground beef. It is often hard to find the source of ground beef made with trimmings.

Study Results

About three-quarters of stores used trimmings in their grinds.

Chain stores were more likely to use trimmings in their grinds.

Chain stores made ground beef

  • More often than independent stores did.
  • In larger batches than independent stores did.

Chain stores were more likely to keep logs than independent stores.

Almost half of all stores kept logs. Stores that kept logs said they did so because of rules from the

  • Corporation or franchise.
  • Store.
  • State. (Even though no states in this study had these rules.)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Even though it did not have these rules.)

Stores that did not keep logs said they did not because

  • They did not know what logs were.
  • Logs were not required.
  • They were supposed to keep them, but did not.
  • They were too busy.

Log Traits

Only about one-quarter of logs had all of the data needed to find out where the source beef came from.

Most logs had data on

  • Type of product (such as ‘90% lean beef’) included in the batch.
  • Date and time of grind.
  • Code for where beef came from.
  • Date source beef was produced.
  • Whether trimmings were also in the grind.

Fewer logs had data on

  • Source beef (lot number, use-by date)
  • Whether cleanup was done between grinds.

Study Conclusions

Most stores used trimmings in their grinds.

Just under one-half of stores kept beef grinding logs.

Less than one-quarter of stores with logs kept enough data in their logs for experts to find out where the ground beef came from.

Chain stores were more likely than independent stores to keep logs.

EHS-Net Recommends

Retail food managers and food safety programs should teach food workers about

  • What grinding logs are.
  • Why it is important to keep them.
  • What information should be put in them.

These efforts should focus on independent stores and stores that use trimmings in their grinds.

Key Terms

  • Trimmings: beef leftovers made during cutting of steaks and other beef and included in ground beef products.
  • Chain store: one with the same name and operations as other stores. Grocery stores with the same name in many cities are chain stores.
  • Independent store: one that does not have the same name or operations as any other store.
  • Source beef: beef used to create batches of ground beef.
  • Traceback investigation: effort to find out where food that caused a foodborne illness outbreak was grown, produced, and packaged.

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