Beef Grades

You, as the consumer, may be overwhelmed by your choices when you approach the meat counter at our local grocery stores. No matter what you are looking for, there is a delicious and nutritious option that will meet all your expectations.

Let’s start with the basics: Beef Quality grades. A beef carcass is given a quality grade based on the fat to meat ratio. The fat within the ribeye is called marbling. Marbling is a visual indicator of the flavor, tenderness, and juiciness of a cut. Other factors of the grade are age and maturity. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service is the agency responsible for grading all meat and poultry.

A USDA Prime cut has the closest ratio of fat to meat, meaning it should have the greatest amount of intramuscular fat, ie. marbling, than all other quality grades. Because Prime beef has more fat, the meat should be juicier, more tender and taste the best. The demand for a Prime steak is highest and therefore it costs the most of all the grades. The next cut is USDA Choice, which is high quality meat but has less marbling than Prime. Choice is also the most widely available cut in the market. The last available grade is USDA Select, which has little marbling, but can still be tasty.

Regardless of grade, beef is a delicious, wholesome, nutritious food source. It has 10 essential nutrients your body needs to function, including iron, choline, protein, selenium, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, phosphorous, niacin and riboflavin. You can get all that in just a 3 oz. serving.  Compared to plant protein sources, beef provides more protein with less calories. Once you’ve picked your perfect cut, you just have to pick the perfect recipe!


Credit: USDA Official Beef Grading Guidelines

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