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Ground Beef Hearts Could Be In Your Next Hamburger

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- What's in your beef?

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a surprise maybe coming to your ground beef.

The USDA is now allowing companies to quietly add cow heart meat to ground beef products.

For decades, the USDA has required ground beef only include, well the parts you expect.

And specifically prohibited heart meat because it's "never been considered as beef" and is not an "expected ingredient in chopped beef, ground beef or hamburger."

Apparently, something has changed.

A post on the agency's website states that beef heart meat can be used in unlimited quantities and be declared as "beef" on the label.

It was posted back in July, but not widely publicized until now.

David Budworth, of Marina Meats, says in most cases you likely wouldn't know the difference.

He notes heart is a delicacy in many cultures.

He notes beef heart is high in iron. In fact some customers request they mix in organ to their beef for that reason. It's also reportedly a rich source of B-12.

"It would add a really nice beefy flavor you'll never know the heart's there. Anything beyond 10 percent you're going to have a little more iron flavor," Budworth said.

As for those who think beef heart is gross?

Budworth said, "Why would a heart be grosser than a fillet mignon? It's still part of a dead animal, it's still part of a living being that gave its life to sustain us. Everybody loves fillet mignon, the purpose of that is to push excrement out of the body, so that could be gross too."

He does think the heart meat should be labeled.

But we should note, the allowable "beef heart meat" is limited to the cardiac muscle. The rest of the heart, aorta, arteries, etc. are considered byproduct and are not allowed.

He does believe consumers should have the right to know what is in the meat and that it should be labeled.

We've asked the USDA why ground heart meat no longer needs to be identified on the label, but the agency did not immediately respond to our inquiry.

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