When can babies eat ground beef?
Beef may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. At this stage in their lives, babies—particularly breastfed babies—need lots of iron, protein, and zinc on a regular basis. Beef (along with bison and lamb) delivers these essential nutrients in spades. Check out our age-appropriate serving ideas!
Is ground beef healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Beef offers essential nutrients that help your baby grow: B vitamins, iron, selenium, zinc, and more. The meat is also packed with protein and both saturated and polyunsaturated fats, which your baby needs for brain, heart, and vision health.1 But keep in mind that the nutritional benefits differ depending on where and how the animal was raised.
Meat from animals that consume a natural diet of grasses and wild plants growing in a pasture offers more healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids) and nutrients like vitamin E, flavonoids, and carotenoids, which our bodies convert to vitamin A.2 Most importantly, grass-fed beef contains fewer antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides than meat from animals raised on commodity crops in feedlots.
The challenge for American consumers is that our federal government does not have a regulatory framework to standardize the labeling of beef and other animal products. When you see a package of “grass-fed” beef, do you imagine a bucolic image of cows roaming in a green pasture under sunny skies? Think again: packages labeled “grass-fed” beef could easily come from an animal that was fed grass (or more likely, hay) on a packed feedlot. The same is true for “pasture-raised” beef—there is no federal definition or regulatory monitoring to standardize the marketing term, so the animal may have spent just a portion of its life on a pasture.
When shopping for beef, it’s best to know your source and try to support farms with trustworthy farming and animal husbandry practices. When that level of awareness is impossible, pay attention to labels to better understand how the animal was raised: a package of pasture-raised, grass-fed, or organic beef is most likely a healthier choice. Also look for the logos of trusted organizations that operate third-party certification programs like the American Grassfed Association. Try to avoid beef that is simply labeled “beef” or “natural beef” on the package as it most likely came from an animal raised on commodity crops and pumped with antibiotics on a feedlot.
Is ground beef a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Meat is a common choking hazard, though ground beef is less of a risk than say a cube or chunk of steak would be. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is ground beef a common allergen?
No, though in theory, one could be allergic to any food. Watch your babies as they eat to monitor for signs of a reaction.
How do you prepare ground beef for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Mix ground beef into an easy-to-scoop food, such as mashed potatoes. Let your baby get messy by scooping with hands and also offer a pre-loaded spoon to start to introduce utensils. If you feel comfortable, you may also offer hamburger patties as suggested in the 12 to 18 month section.
12 to 18 months old: Ground beef patties are perfect for this age. Serve a patty on top of applesauce or yogurt, which will add moisture and aid swallowing. If a too-big piece of meat breaks off in your baby’s mouth, stay calm and give your baby the chance to work it forward independently. Babies at this age have a strong gag reflex to help keep food forward on the tongue. If your child is struggling with a too-big piece of food, coach them to spit it out by sticking out your own tongue and saying “ah” and/or by tilting them forward gently and putting your hand underneath their chin to catch the food. Refrain from sticking your fingers in your baby’s mouth, which can result in your unintentionally pushing food further back.
18 to 24 months old: Around this age, your baby may be ready for hamburgers with the bun. (You could certainly try serving a whole burger with the bun before then but don’t be surprised if your baby just takes it apart and eats the bread!)
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Beef Burgers
- 1lb ground beef
- 1 shallot or small onion
- Olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- Lemon juice (optional)
- Sweet paprika (optional)
- Greek yogurt, applesauce, or mayonnaise (for dipping)
If the beef meat is frozen, defrost it in your refrigerator.
- Finely chop 1 shallot or ½ onion. Sauté with olive oil in a skillet on medium low heat. While the onion is cooking, finely chop 1 clove of garlic. Add it to the pan with the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
- Place 1lb of ground beef in a bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic, then mix together with your hands. It’s not necessary, but at this stage, you could also add an egg and some breadcrumbs for extra flavor and texture. For older babies, try adding new spices, such as coriander or cumin—or both!
- Form the meat into small patties. Cook the patties in a skillet over medium heat. For faster cooking, cover the skillet while the patties are cooking. After a few minutes, flip the patties. To test readiness, cut one patty in half and make sure it’s well done, with no pink meat inside.
- Serve the patties with Greek yogurt, mayo, or applesauce as a dip. For added flavor, try whisking in a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of sweet paprika to the yogurt or mayo.
Ground beef is extraordinarily versatile but is particularly tasty when mixed with sautéed shallots and onions, topped with low-sodium cheese, and incorporated into casseroles, chili, and stews. Spices that pair well include coriander, cumin, paprika, rosemary, and thyme.
- Pighin, D., Pazos, A., Chamorro, V., Paschetta, F.,Cunzolo, S. et al. (2016). A Contribution of Beef to Human Health: A Review of the Role of the Animal Production Systems. The Scientific World Journal. doi: 10.1155/2016/8681491. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
- Pighin, D., Pazos, A., Chamorro, V., Paschetta, F.,Cunzolo, S. et al. (2016). A Contribution of Beef to Human Health: A Review of the Role of the Animal Production Systems. The Scientific World Journal. doi: 10.1155/2016/8681491