Ground Meat – What’s the Difference?

Is All Ground Meat The Same?


Most of us know ground beef by its regular, medium, lean and extra-lean categories—you can almost tell just by looking at the package. But where do other ground meats fit in, and why don’t we ever see “medium-ground turkey”? 

As it turns out, all ground meat (at least in Canada) follows the same labeling standards, regardless of animal origin: 

Regular ground = 30% or less fat

Medium ground = 23% or less fat

Lean ground = 17% or less fat

Extra-Lean ground = 10% or less fat

Here are some more cooking tidbits for ground meats:



Beef: Regular and medium ground beef is great for making juicy burgers and meatballs, or anything that allows some of the fat to drain off. Lean and extra-lean ground beef is made from less fatty cuts, such as sirloin and round steak, and work well in foods such as stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls and meatloaf—things you don’t want to be greasy when cooked. Leaner cuts work just fine in burgers, too, they just might not be as juicy. 

Turkey: A naturally lean protein, ground turkey always falls into the extra-lean category. That’s why it may not have “extra-lean” on the label, although technically it should say “Extra-Lean Ground Turkey”.  A lot of people choose turkey as a leaner choice to beef, but if you prefer the taste of beef, an extra-lean ground burger is just as low in fat as turkey. I actually like ground turkey for the flavour—you will too after trying my Apple and Cheddar Turkey Burgers!  

Chicken: You can get either extra-lean ground chicken or lean ground chicken, the latter which contains more thigh meat. As with turkey, less fat in ground chicken means less moisture, so don’t cook either poultry at too high a temperature. Ground chicken makes great soup meatballs, or piled high into leafy lettuce wraps. 

Pork: Cuts of pork range from very fatty to very lean, so you can get extra-lean, lean and medium ground pork. A butcher may also do regular ground for you. Ground pork is often mixed with ground beef for more flavourful burgers and meatballs, or try tossing ground pork into a veggie-rich stir-fry. 

Lamb: Lean and medium ground lamb are the most common you’ll find at the store. Often overlooked, juicy ground lamb is a winner for burgers, meatballs, tacos, stuffings and more. The key to great flavour is loading up lamb with complementary spices such as cumin, cinnamon and lots of fresh herbs.  


  1. Heidi

    Informative, thx!

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