The lean, low-fat hamburgers being introduced by a national fast-food chain will also be coming soon to a school cafeteria near you.
Howard County schools are participating in a statewide test of hamburgers made from low-fat beef patties supplied by the U.S. Department ofAgriculture.
The test comes in the same month that McDonald's is introducing 91 percent lean "McLean Burgers."
The 3-ounce beef patties being tested in school cafeterias this month are 92 percent lean, said W. Kenneth Shifflett, chief of the food distribution section of the Maryland State Department of Education.
He said the patties also contain water, oat bran and fiber.
Beef patties usually supplied by the USDA are 80 percent lean, 20 percent fat, "a pretty good grade of meat," Shifflett said.
Mary Klatko, food service supervisor for the county school system, said Thursday that she had not decided when the burgers will be served or how many cafeterias will participate.
The burgers will arrive at the schools Monday, she said.
Shifflett said how the testing is done is up to each school systems, but he hopes food service managers will try to get responses from students of all ages.
"We'd like to get across the board feelings," he said, adding that he hopes to have responses to report to the USDA within the next two weeks.
A relatively small number of students will get to test the burgers, Shifflett said.
The federal government sent Maryland just 1,100 cases of the low-fat beef patties, approximately 211,000 burgers. The food distribution chief is dividing them among counties on a percentage of the number of students who usually buy school lunches.
If students in the four test states -- Maryland, Georgia, Texas and California -- give a "thumbs up" rating to the reduced-fat hamburgers, USDA plans to buy more of them for distribution through the school lunch program, Shifflett said.
The Agriculture Department defines extra lean beef as less than 5 percent fat, lean as less than 10 percent fat and "light" or low-fat as having 25 percent less fat than comparable products such as pork.