The Best and Worst Beef Products of 2021—Ranked!
Beef in America is a widely debated topic.
On one side of the aisle, you'll hear that beef is detrimental to our health. The American Heart Association recommends reducing processed forms of beef like hot dogs and sausage, which tend to be high in salt, sugar, fat, and additives that aren't the best for your health. Now, that's not to say you can't have a hot dog from time to time, but there are some side effects of doing so regularly.
On the other hand, you'll find research to support the fact that beef is a nutrient-dense food that can be part of a robust diet. It provides essential vitamins and minerals like iron, many of the B vitamins, as well as zinc, potassium, magnesium, and a hearty serving of protein. This is why the American Heart Association recommends choosing leaner cuts of red meat like lean ground beef, sirloin, brisket, and chuck roasts.
The truth is, there is a spectrum of less healthy to more nutrient-dense beef products. In fact, some of the best options these days are grass-fed beef—aka the cool new cow on the block. Raising beef in this manner may be healthier for you and the planet since it's been shown to reduce farming pollution via methane gas and improve the quality of the soil and land where the animals are raised. (As we speak, researchers in Argentina are proving that new, sustainable methods of farming beef may even positively impact global food security.)
To help you shop smarter and eat healthier, we ranked the major beef products found in nationwide grocers from worst to best. When evaluating quality, we compared the fat, salt, and sugar content of each product to gauge how they measure up.
Keep reading to see our ranking, and for more, check out where you can find The Best Hot Dog in Every State.
Heritage Farm Beef Patties
These patties look innocent on the outside, but on the inside, they are brimming with fully hydrogenated oils—earning them the number one spot on our worst list. While the FDA has certified that fully hydrogenated oils are safe for consumption, they put them on a "use sparingly" notice.
Kiolbassa Smoked Sausage
These fat sausages are free of added nitrates, but at 310 total calories, 26 grams of fat, and 750 mg of sodium per link, they are the trifecta of an unhealthy beef product.
Jack's Link Premium Steak
This convenience store favorite has a secret: a whopping 1,370 milligrams of sodium per steak stick! While these are delicious, you might want to seek out a snack that packs less of a salty punch.
Bridgford Summer Sausage
Just a few small slices of this summer sausage may have your blood pressure rising with 710 milligrams of sodium per two-ounce serving.
Hillshire Farms Smoked Sausage
Smoked sausage is one of the biggest offenders when comparing fat and sodium content. With 17 grams of fat and 680 milligrams of sodium per day, this fan-favorite is no exception. That's nearly 25% of the recommended sodium content in just one sausage link!
Hillshire Farm Beef Polska Kielbasa
This traditional polish option is quite high in fat and sodium, earning it a place on our worst list. With 14 grams of fat, 560 milligrams of sodium, and 3 grams of added sugar, this product is not the picture of health.
Corned Beef, canned
This beef option is your stereotypical canned product when it comes to sodium content: it clocks in at 1,925 mg of sodium per can! One redeeming quality is that it's high in protein at least!
Beef Hot Dogs
America's favorite pastime is a little less healthy when paired with these dogs. With 12 grams of fat and 360 milligrams of sodium, these links don't offer much nutritional value outside of calories.
Lit'l Smokies Sausages
Corn syrup, MSG, and nitrites work together to earn these little bites a place on our worst list. They have 150 calories and 15 grams of fat per five-link serving to boot.
Cooked Perfect Italian Meatballs
We're not sure if Italy would be proud of this product or not… With 240 calories and 590 milligrams of sodium in three meatballs, you're sure to feel the effects of the extra salt in this dinner food.
Dukes' Hatch Green Chili
A serving of these links offers more protein than a traditional beef hot dog, certainly giving them a leg up. Dukes prides itself on their natural processing methods and do not use traditional preservatives like MSG and nitrates. However, they still provide 9 grams of fat and 310 milligrams of sodium for just two links!
Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Sausage Stick
This product is quite salty, but that's to be expected in a dried beef stick. We prefer to focus on the 11 grams of protein and 160 calories per serving here—not too shabby for a hearty snack!
This American classic fares pretty well when you consider that it only contains one ingredient: beef. It's certainly not a lean cut though. With 420 calories per patty, this one is on our best list, but not a top runner.
Tribali Beef Patties
This burger blend is savvy: Mediterranean spices and herbs give this product an upgrade. With 220 calories per patty and 470 milligrams of sodium, this burger is certainly trying to be health-conscious.
Teton Waters Ranch Burger Blend
Another burger blend that knows how to craft a nutritious option; this brand clocks in at just 180 calories and 260 milligrams of sodium. Now, that's going to be hard to beat!
Offering 90 calories and 16 grams of protein per serving, this grass-fed product looks as cool as it is healthy. We know the sodium content is a little high, but overall, this product is pretty competitive.
Chomps Beef Stick
This grass-fed snack company works hard to be healthy—and it shows. Only 90 calories per stick and 290 milligrams of sodium, this better-for-you jerky is making waves in the snack aisle.
Keystone Ground Beef, canned
We know what you're thinking: Is canned meat really healthy? Turns out, it can be! This product is simply crafted, just beef and salt. The canned good serves up just 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, and 120 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Per serving, this was the lowest calorie and lowest sodium processed beef product we could find on the market! With an emphasis on grass-fed, high-quality beef, this product delivers 220 calories and 220 milligrams of sodium per four-meatball serving.
Dakota Grass Fed Ground Beef
We saved the best for last! Sometimes simple is best, and it doesn't get more simple than lean, grass-fed ground beef. This product takes the cake, with only 11 grams of fat and 75 milligrams of sodium per four ounces of beef! Keep calories low and flavor high with this versatile option.
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