A broiled hamburger patty that's 80 percent lean and 20 percent fat has 20 grams of protein in it -- but how much protein would the same-sized patty have if it were 94 percent lean and only 6 percent fat? Solving this puzzle would have been a problem in the past, but not today.

A new computer program, the Ground Beef Calculator, is now available online free of charge at the Agricultural Research Service's Nutrient Data Laboratory Web site. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the USDA.

Ground beef is the most commonly consumed beef product in the United States. It is offered in retail stores at differing fat levels and can be prepared in various ways. The calculator program generates a custom nutrient profile for a variety of ground beef products containing any fat level between 5 percent and 30 percent. Estimates for most vitamins and minerals and the major fatty acid classes are also calculated automatically, based on chemical analyses and mathematical equations.

Users simply type in the percent fat or lean of any one of five product types: raw ground beef, broiled patty, pan-broiled patty, pan-browned crumbles or baked loaf. The nutrient profiles generated can then be printed directly from the web page.

The calculator was produced by ARS lead nutritionist Juliette C. Howe and colleagues at the NDL, which is part of the Beltsville (Md.) Human Nutrition Research Center. They collaborated with researcher Dennis R. Buege with the University of Wisconsin, and statistician Larry A. Douglass with the University of Maryland.

The computer program also can be accessed through the online search feature of the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (SR), which has recently been updated with the launch of version SR19. The NDL produces and manages the Standard Reference for public use.

The calculator allows consumers, dietitians and researchers to estimate dietary nutrient intakes based on ground beef products available in the marketplace. Industry also will use the nutrient information generated by the program to meet labeling requirements for their products containing ground beef.

SOURCE: USDA news release.