Your Backyard Burgers Are Bursting With Gross Bacteria

Medium rare? Maybe not.
Shutterstock / val lawless

Word to the wise: If you're planning on hosting an end-of-summer barbecue, don't even think about buying conventional ground beef for your burgers.

Consumer Reports recently tested 458 pounds of ground beef from suppliers nationwide, and found that more than 80 percent of the conventionally-raised samples contained at least two types of dangerous bacteria. And on top of that, the beef produced on feedlots with antibiotics had twice the number of superbugs as beef produced in a sustainable fashion.

For the new report, the magazine's research team bought 300 packages of conventionally and sustainably-produced (meaning organic, grass-fed or both) ground beef from grocery, big-box and natural food stores across 26 U.S. cities. They then tested each sample for the five most common types of bacteria associated with beef in cases of food poisoning: clostridium perfringens, E. coli, enterococcus, salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Their testing, which is one of the largest to be completed to date, found bacteria on every single one of the beef samples. However, it did find that ground beef from sustainably-raised cows raised was significantly less affected by harmful bacterias S. aureus and E. coli than their conventional counterparts.

According to the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the bacteria in beef is often spread via the grinding process, which is why your favorite cut of steak is less likely to make you sick than a hamburger. The degree to which meat is cooked also impacts potential exposure to bacteria -- the only way to guarantee that you've killed all risky ones is to make sure the meat reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on the grill.

Food poisoning hits an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. each year, and beef is to blame for a substantial proportion of these incidents. So if you're still planning on busting out your famous burger recipe in the coming weeks, invest in the higher quality beef and make good use of that food thermometer. Your guests (and your own stomach) will thank you.

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