Ground beef is usually any cut, just ground up. It typically comes from older or leaner cows and bulls, because it is tougher. It consists of trimmings from all over the cow, so it can really be from anywhere. See below for more details.
Ground beef most often consists of muscle, and is therefore cut from the less tender areas of the cow. Ehow.com lists ground beef as most often cut from the flank, or the stomach area, of the cow. Flank steak, cubed steak, and stew meat are also cut from the same area. Ground beef needs to be ground in order to help tenderize and flavor the meat, because it is such a tough cut. Variations in packaging are due to the amount of fat in the ground beef, not what part of the cow it is from or other differences.
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