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How many cattle in a ground-beef patty?

FOODs-OSU Pie chart of consumer responses
Only 5% of consumers knew how many cattle may be represented in a single ground beef patty.
National survey asks consumers how many animals represented in one ground beef patty. Do you know the answer?

Do you know how many cattle are represented in a commercially produced ground beef patty?

In a recent Food Demand Survey (FOODs) by Oklahoma State University agricultural economists, only 10% of consumers knew the correct answer to that question.

As an active member of the beef industry, can you do any better?

Survey respondents were asked: “One could produce a ground beef patty from one animal exclusively. Or, one could take ground beef from multiple cows, mix them all together, and form a ground beef patty containing many cows’ meat. Suppose you purchase a hamburger at a fast food restaurant. How many different cows’ meat do you believe is in that one beef patty?”

FooDS is a monthly on-line survey with a sample size of at least 1,000 individuals, weighted to match the US population in terms of age, gender, education and region of residence. FooDS tracks consumer preferences and sentiments on the safety, quality, and price of food at home and away from home with particular focus on meat demand. Survey researchers have a regular slate of questions about how willing consumers are to pay for beef and other food items, but they also ask "ad hoc" questions each month.

Those who answered “more than one cow” were asked: “How many different cows’ meat do you believe is in that one beef patty?” Roughly one-third of Americans believe the patty consists of meat from only one animal, but this is not the case. It is not uncommon for a single ground beef patty to contain the meat of over 1,000 different animals. Only 10% of Americans correctly answered that a single patty will likely come from more than 100 different animals.

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