The hamburger is the most popular staple in America; it is found in more homes and featured on more menus than any other entree. Thus, it has been coined the king of all meats.

Does this cause you to pause and give thought to a new appreciation for that which is most affordable and available to all? The cost is nearly free, but the value is nearly priceless.

This is good news for everyone, but especially for livestock producers. To be such a major contributor can’t be taken for granted,  nor can the hamburger be taken for granted. The Hamburger is the staple that binds both America and the meat and livestock industry together.

The hamburger is that one meat product that cuts across the entire beef industry, and from which every weight and grade becomes a contributor. From the finest dining pleasure of prime beef to that of the lowly cow standing upright at the manger — it all makes hamburger. Each contributes to the mix and blend of all its parts to make whole the humble hamburger.

The burger was discovered and declared official in 1885 in Seymour, Wisconsin. A guy by the name of Charles Nagreen is credited for the achievement, and will be forever remembered as Hamburger Charlie.

State lawmakers have proudly laid claim to declaring Wisconsin as the home of the hamburger. The State assembly recently served up a proclamation that Seymour beat out other competitors such as Athens, Texas, and New Haven, Connecticut, for the coveted title of being the hamburger capital of the country.

Nagreen began selling his world-famous hamburger at age 15 at the rst Seymour fair in 1885, and later at the Brown County and Outagamie County fairs. At that time he was doing meatballs on a stick and decided to atten them out and put them between two pieces of bread, so people could walk around the fair eating the hamburger.

How times have changed! Some hundred plus years later we walk around the fair eating everything on a stick.

Though the burger may not be the health food of choice, it has been declared the all American food of preference, not only on special occasions, but every day.  The burger has probably done more for the livestock industry than any other meat product. The health issue is debatable; we can talk about that some other time.

The hamburger is always of greatest demand during the grilling season, but remember, lean is not always better. Let’s face it: when it comes to ground meat, fat adds avor. Fat adds avor to any cut of meat, thus the need for marbling found in the higher quality cuts of meat. But adding fat is particularly important in hamburger, as most hamburgers come from low quality cull cows. This meat contains little or no marbling and would be extremely dry and tasteless if it weren’t for the co-mingling and mixing of fat trim from higher quality cuts.

This stirs up a very controversial subject with me, as the lean-fanatics in this country continue to push a lean and healthier alternative. My response is, “So is eating shoe leather, but what about taste and satiety value"?

The harder we push lean, the faster we turn people away from the meat counter.  l respect the claims of fat, but not at the expense of destroying the demand for high quality meat. (Everything in moderation!)

When selecting hamburger, don‘t always go for the leanest or most expensive. It will destroy the experience of good outdoor cooking. Select the cheapest, fattiest burger you can nd and control the fat content with the sizzle. Turn up the heat, ip quickly and sear in those rich, savory juices.  Any excess fat will have been cooked out of the burger, while at the same time retaining an unbelievable, scrumptious avor.

To better understand ground beef labels, remember that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that lean burger must contain 10 grams of fat (4-1/2 grams saturated) or less per 4-ounce serving. For extra-lean, the standard is 5 grams of fat (2 grams saturated) or less per serving. But don’t be misled by those labels. Neither meets the de nition of a low-fat food, which is 3 grams of fat or less per sewing

You simply have to decide if low fat is your goal or is it eating good, as fat percentages can also be misleading. Ground beef labeled 90-percent lean sounds low in fat, but actually packs more than 11 grams of fat per sewing, and 95-percent lean has 6 grams per serving.

Appearance doesn’t help either. An absence of white ecks (marbling) doesn’t mean ground meat is low in fat, especially in red meat, where most of the fat is hidden in the muscle tissue. Again, your criteria for purchasing good tasting hamburger should be inexpensive, as more  cost in this case doesn’t mean better.

And you can have it both ways, as in more avor and less expense by simply cooking off the excess fat. The browning process will cook off any excess. This also enhances appearance and according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, this will reduce the fat content by as much as half. So, don’t take my word for it; the diet folks are actually on my side.

Grilling is the social barometer of neighborhood fence climbing and a patio get-together. It‘s hard to stay away from the aroma of a barbecue or the relaxed atmosphere of friends and family gatherings. But nothing can ruin a good time more than poor meat selection or inappropriate cooking procedures.

Temperature and timing are the keys to a memorable cookout. Where there is smoke, there is fire! Tend to business and watch what you‘re doing very closely, as just one are-up can make the difference between success and failure. A good cook will ip once and avoid burning.

The hamburger has become an American icon, so take pride in both preparation and cooking.

«read more Knightro Report columns


read also: The Best Burger Joint: King’s Place in Miesville, Minnesota

PONY TALES by PONTY: more insightful stories written by Ken Knight

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.


For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].