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Beef Grades Decoded Understanding USDA Beef Guidelines
USDA Choice: A lot of people purchase USDA Choice when they want a good cut of beef but don’t want or cannot afford to pay the USDA Prime price. These cuts generally have less marbling, but they are still fairly high quality. When you just want to throw a few steaks or burgers on the grill, Choice will serve you well. USDA Select: This grade of meat is decent quality, but it doesn’t have the level of marbling found in Prime and Choice cuts. Because of this, Select cuts are usually less tender and flavorful. These aren’t great options for steak, but if you’re making a stew, you can’t go wrong with Select.
Standard and Commercial: These cuts of beef don’t always make it to the supermarket, but when they do, they’re often priced lower. They also have limited marbling, which can mean a tougher texture with less flavor. Keep in mind that these cuts are not often labeled anywhere on the packaging, so if you see beef packaging that lacks a grade, it may be a lower-grade cut. Utility, Cutter, and Canner: Many people never encounter these grades at the supermarket. These are cut from very lean, older cattle and are usually sold directly to food manufacturers to make processed meat products, such as hot dogs. These grades are also used in dog food.
If you’ve ever purchased a cut of beef or strolled past the meat counter at your local grocery store, you’ve probably noticed the different grades of beef. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guidelines for the meat sold in stores across the country. Before the meat is sold, it receives a grade. As a shopper, it can be difficult to understand what these grades really mean. Here’s how the grades break down: USDA Prime: If you want a high-quality cut of beef, you should get USDA Prime. These cuts of meat tend to be more expensive, but for the price, you get a tender, flavorful, well- marbled cut of meat. For a fantastic steak, you should reach for Prime.
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