Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Six Beef Cuts Certified Heart Healthy

By Dallas Duncan, Georgia Cattlemen's Association director of communications

Great news, beef eaters -- three more cuts were certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association this week. Now, in addition to the 29 lean cuts of beef and evidence that beef in an optimal lean diet can lower cholesterol, there are a total of six cuts that have earned the AHA Heart-Check mark.

"Adding more beef cuts to a heart-healthy diet is extremely profitable for the beef industry and a win-win for consumers who love beef," said Tricia Combes, Georgia Beef Board compliance and program coordinator.

The six cuts, all US Department of Agriculture select grade -- meaning they have low intramuscular fat, or marbling -- are the sirloin tip steak, bottom round steak, top sirloin stir-fry, boneless top sirloin petite roast, top sirloin filet and top sirloin kabob, according to a news release from National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"Having the American Heart Association certify three additional extra-lean beef cuts is yet another important milestone in the Beef Checkoff's efforts to help consumers understand the positive health and nutritional benefits of beef," Jeanne Harland, chair of the Checkoff Nutrition and Health Subcommittee, said in the release. "We will continue to support and apply scientific evidence to show consumers how they can eat healthfully with extra-lean beef."

In order to earn the extra-lean Heart-Check mark, a meat or seafood product must meet rigorous criteria. The total fat must be less than five grams, saturated fat less than two grams, trans fat less than 0.5 grams, less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol and 480 milligrams or less sodium, according to the AHA website. In addition, the product must provide 10 percent or more of the daily value of at least one of the following nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber.

Beef, according to documents on the Beef Nutrition website, is a good source of iron, providing 14 percent of the recommended daily value, and an excellent source of protein, providing 51 percent of the recommended daily value.

The AHA, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other leading health organizations recognize lean meat as a nutritious food.

Cheryl Hendricks, NCBA registered dietitian and a contractor for the Beef Checkoff, says the independent research and AHA certification confirm the importance of extra-lean beef in an overall heart-healthy diet.

"We know that consumers are looking to retailers as a trusted source of nutrition information. Displaying the American Heart Association Heart-Check mark in the meat case makes it easier for consumers to identify heart-healthy extra-lean beef and as a result, grow beef sales among health-conscious shoppers," Hendricks said in the news release.

In fact, nearly 75 percent of  shoppers say seeing the Heart-Check mark increases the likelihood they'll buy a product, the news release states.

Each of these six cuts is one of the 29 lean cuts of beef. The sirloin tip steak, known also as the knuckle steak, breakfast steak or sandwich steak, is a thin, economical boneless cut great for quick skillet cooking or in a stir-fry. It's a thin cut that is best eaten cooked to medium-rare.

The bottom round steak is also best cooked medium rare and sliced thin, but thicker slices can be cooked in a skillet. It's also known as the Western griller. Top sirloin stir-fry is quick to prepare and is best used in fajitas or stir-fry dishes.

A boneless top sirloin petite roast has "melt-in-your-mouth tenderness" and a robust flavor. Despite being a larger cut, it is easy to prepare and slices into healthy portion sizes. The top sirloin filet is known by many names, including baseball cut, top sirloin butt steak and center-cut top sirloin steak, but no matter what it's called, it's a perfectly portioned cut. These filets are trimmed and ready to cook to "deliver a gourmet experience on a budget." The final cut of the six is the top sirloin steak kebob, derived from the boneless top sirloin steak. This moderately tender cut is affordable, juicy and works well with marinades, rubs and sauces. It's specifically formed to cut into strips or chunks for stir-fry dishes and kebabs.

Josh White, executive vice president for GBB, said he is excited about the increased visibility of these heart-healthy cuts and the different ways they can be incorporated into Americans' diets.

"It seems like the modern consumer is looking for permission to enjoy the great taste of beef they already love," White said. "This is just one more way we can assure them that beef is healthy and contributes to a healthy lifestyle."

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